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BATON ROUGE - Legislation protecting innocent spouses from unfair tax liabilities and a proposal to halt the accrual of interest on tax liabilities that taxpayers are not aware of are two of the Department of Revenue''s top priorities during the upcoming 1999 regular legislative session, according to Secretary of Revenue John Kennedy.
"These proposals reflect our philosophy as written in our Taxpayer''s Bill of Rights that all taxpayers have the right to be treated fairly, courteously, and with respect," says Secretary Kennedy. "The ''Innocent Spouse'' and ''Fair Interest'' bills are examples of our efforts under the Foster Administration to make paying taxes as fair, easy, and convenient as possible."
The "Innocent Spouse" proposal (SB 261, sponsored by Sen. Robert Barham) would bring state tax law in line with recent changes made by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that limit liability for individual income tax, interest, and penalty for spouses who sign joint tax returns and who establish that they were not aware of any error made by the other spouse regarding understatement of income or false claim of deductions or credits.
"We have heard of too many horror stories of spouses who, through no fault of their own, find themselves liable for the errors, whether intentional or not, of the other spouse simply because they signed a joint return in good faith," says Secretary Kennedy. "Under existing law, these innocent spouses are automatically presumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Our bill will change that."
The "Fair Interest" proposal (SB 264, sponsored by Sen. Robert Barham) would suspend the running of interest for taxpayers with delinquent individual income tax liabilities when the Department of Revenue fails to notify them about the liability within eighteen months of the tax return being filed or its due date, whichever is later.
"It''s not fair for taxpayers to be slapped with enormous interest charges when government fails to notify them in a timely manner," says Secretary Kennedy. "In the real world, people sometimes make mistakes in computing their taxes. By law they must be charged interest if they underpay. However, government should not be allowed to benefit from excessive interest charges when government is at fault for not contacting the taxpayer sooner."
The Taxpayer''s Bill of Rights is a 20-point statement enacted during the 1998 Special Session that lists all the rights specifically reserved to taxpayers, whether through existing law or existing Department of Revenue policies or procedures. "As a matter of policy, the Department has always tried to make sure that taxpayers know their rights and that we at the Department respect those rights," says Secretary Kennedy. "However, we feel that by listing these rights in a single statute, Louisiana taxpayers can be assured that those rights will be protected to the fullest extent of the law." A listing of the Taxpayer''s Bill of Rights is available at www.rev.state.la.us on the Internet.
"With these legislative proposals, the people of Louisiana should know that we intend to work with them and respect their rights as we go about our job of collecting revenues," says Secretary Kennedy. "We look upon taxpayers as our customers...not our enemies."
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