Tax amnesty is a limited-time opportunity for a specified group of taxpayers to pay a defined amount, in exchange for forgiveness of a tax liability (including interest and penalties) relating to a previous tax period or periods and without fear of criminal prosecution. It typically expires when some authority begins a tax investigation of the past-due tax. In some cases, legislation extending amnesty also imposes harsher penalties on those who are eligible for amnesty but do not take it. Tax amnesty is one of voluntary compliance strategies to increase tax base and tax revenue. Tax amnesty is different from other voluntary compliance strategies in part where tax amnesty usually waives the taxpayers' tax liability.
In 2004 the Belgian Parliament adopted a law allowing individuals subject to Belgian income tax to regularize the undeclared, or untaxed, assets they held before June 1, 2003.
In 2004 Germany granted a tax amnesty in connection with tax evasion.
On September 30, 2010, the Hellenic Parliament ratified a legislation pushed through by the Greek government in an effort to raise revenue, granting tax amnesty to millions of Greek citizens by paying just 55 percent of the outstanding debts. In 2011, the European Commission requested Greece to modify its tax legislation as its tax amnesty was considered discriminatory and incompatible with European Union treaties.
In 2009 the Italian tax amnesty subjected repatriated assests to a flat tax of 5%. In total around €80 billion in assets were declared, which resulted in tax revenues of €4 Billion. The Bank of Italy estimated that Italian citizens held around €500bn in undeclared funds outside the country.
Portugal introduced tax amnesties in 2005 and 2010.
In 2012 the Spanish Minister of Economy and Competitiveness Cristóbal Montoro announced a tax evasion amnesty for undeclared assets or those hidden in tax havens. Repatriation would be allowed by paying a 10 percent tax, with no criminal penalty.
Many U.S. states have had tax amnesties. The City of Los Angeles collected $18.6 million in its 2009 tax amnesty program, claiming that the amount was $8.6 million more than was expected and that businesses saved $6.7 million in penalties. The state of Louisiana brought in $450 million from its 2009 tax amnesty program, three times more than what was expected, according to Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.
In a 2007 United States Senate bill that did not become law, a tax amnesty for illegal immigrants was proposed. The tax amnesty was supported by then-president George W. Bush and his Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
On June 26, 2012, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs has so far collected more than $5 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties from 33,000 voluntary disclosures made under the first two programs.
Canada has a tax amnesty under both the Income Tax Act for income tax related offences and under the Excise Tax Act for GST/HST (goods and services tax/ harmonized sales tax) matters. The tax amnesty is referred to by the Canada Revenue Agency as the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) and has its statutory authority under subsection 220(3.1) of the Income Tax Act and the sections 88 and 281.1 of the ETA which set out the rules for taxpayer relief applications. This relief is available for a 10 year period prior to the date of filing and covers unfiled tax returns and unfiled information returns such as offshore asset forms T1135 or T1134, as well as tax evasion in the form of unreported income or over claimed expenses or deductions. Eligible taxpayers will receive full penalty relief, will avoid any possible tax evasion prosecution and may obtain some interest reductions.See more details at https://www.canadiantaxamnesty.ca/
- Bornukova, K., Kruk, D., Shymanovich, G., & Tserlukevich, Y. (2014). Tax Amnesty (in Russian) (No. 21). Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC).
- Jacques Malherbe (2011). Tax Amnesties. ISBN 978-90-411-3364-9.
- The traps in amnesty for taxes
- Update on Voluntary Disclosure Programmes A Pathway to Tax Compliance. https://www.oecd.org/ctp/exchange-of-tax-information/update-on-voluntary-disclosure-programmes-a-pathwaypto-tax-compliance.htm: OECD. p. 14.
- Daley, Suzanne (February 20, 2011). "Greece's Efforts to Limit Tax Evasion Have Little Success". The New York Times.
- "EU Commission tells Greece to change tax amnesty". Reuters. February 16, 2011.
- State Tax Amnesty Programs
- Boston Globe: Kennedy, McCain try again on immigration. February 28, 2007.
- "IRS Says Offshore Effort Tops $5 Billion, Announces New Details on the Voluntary Disclosure Program and Closing of Offshore Loophole". IRS website. US Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 2012-06-29.
- "Canadian Tax Amnesty is a program offered by the Canada Revenue Agency to report unreported income and assets without any penalties". Voluntary Disclosure website. Canadian Tax Amnesty Service. Retrieved 2016-06-09.