Owe Pa. back taxes? Take advantage of the tax amnesty

An example of the Pennsylvania 2016 personal income tax form.

Finally, tax day’s behind us! But for those Philadelphians who owe taxes from way back when, it’s amnesty season.

Starting April 21, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is running a 60-day amnesty program for Pennsylvanians who owe the state back taxes. And there’s updated information on the 2017 amnesty program with a new website: https://www.backtax.pa.gov.

During the 60-day period — through June 19 — the Department of Revenue will waive all penalties and half the interest on eligible tax delinquencies for anyone who participates. It’s a chance for individuals and businesses to settle past-due bills on about 30 types of taxes.

Who’s eligible?

Individuals and businesses with state tax delinquencies as of Dec. 31, 2015, can participate. However, if you took part in the state’s prior 2010 tax-amnesty program you’re ineligible this time around. Also, those with unpaid taxes due after Dec. 31, 2015, are not eligible.

The amnesty period concludes soon, so get your application online at or by calling 1-844-727-8283.  

To fill out an application, you will need your tax-amnesty notice, sent to eligible taxpayers starting April 21. Taxpayers not registered with the department or who lost or did not receive a notice should call for assistance on how to file.

Not sure how much you owe?  

For guidelines and a webinar, visit the Department of Revenue website (http://www.revenue.pa.gov/taxamnesty). Business taxpayers may request a statement of account that shows all liabilities at www.etides.state.pa.us.  Individuals may review account information, including all liabilities, by visiting the Personal Income Tax e-Services Center (www.doreservices.state.pa.us).

Who’s managing the program for the state? A debt-collection agency, Pioneer Credit Recovery.

Delinquent taxpayers owe $3.47 billion in Pennsylvania taxes. And it’s not just Pennsylvanians. Approximately 21 percent of delinquent taxpayers are from out of state, including 68,700 taxpayers in Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and West Virginia. Businesses owe 65 percent of the back taxes, employer withholding taxes, and sales tax. Delinquent sales tax accounts for 26 percent of the total.

To decide whether to participate, call your accountant or tax attorney first.

For those taxpayers Pennsylvania doesn’t know about, there is a limited look-back period that can be very beneficial.

For instance, those with unknown tax deficiencies reported and paid during the amnesty period are not liable for any taxes of the same type due prior to Jan. 1, 2011. “Seriously consider participation in the amnesty program, but before doing so, assess the state’s separate Voluntary Disclosure Program,” added Michael Gillen, director of the tax accounting group at Duane Morris.

Back to class. For accountants and tax professionals looking to brush up their credentials, the Eastern Pennsylvania-IRS Working Together Conference is set for Wednesday, May 24, at Pennsylvania State University's Great Valley campus. The cost is $110 for 8 CPE and 7 CLE hours. The Pennsylvanian Society of Tax & Accounting Professionals handles registration for this program through its website (www.pstap.org) or the PSTAP office at 1-800-270-3352.

Verizon retirees want clawbacks. Earlier this year, two Wells Fargo executives gave back some of their pay amid the bank's recent phony-accounts scandal.

Now, Verizon Communications retirees want to claw back compensation when the company violates laws, regulations, or company policy, under a shareholder proposal backed by the Association of BellTel Retirees. The proposal will be voted on at Verizon’s annual meeting May 4.

In 2015, Verizon agreed to pay $90 million to settle charges related to unauthorized third-party charges placed on subscriber bills, a practice known as “cramming.” The shareholder proposal put forth by the 134,000-member retiree group would amend compensation policies to disgorge incentive earnings from senior executives whose conduct results in substantial criminal or civil penalties against Verizon.

“Why reward unscrupulous behavior,” said Jack Brennan, president of the BellTel retirees group. “If an executive behaves badly, unethically, or fails to maintain legally appropriate standards, hold them accountable.”

The retirees also introduced a second proposal to end what the group calls an “uneven playing field” between senior execs and rank-and-file management related to retirement benefits.

Currently, there is no ceiling to the company match for those in the executive deferral plan, while the plan for rank-and-file management is capped. In 2015, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam received a matching contribution of $410,000, 20 times the maximum allowable for rank-and-file managers and others in the tax-qualified Management Savings Plan, Brennan said.

Verizon is urging shareholders to vote against both proposals at the annual meeting in early May. We’ll follow up afterward to find out how shareholders voted.