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The Massachusetts House on Monday overwhelmingly approved a limited tax amnesty program that would offer delinquent taxpayers an opportunity to settle past state tax liabilities without paying penalties.
The measure proposed by state Rep. Brad Jones, the House Republican leader, was added as an amendment during debate on the state's $36.2 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
"By offering tax amnesty to individuals and businesses that are delinquent in their payments to the Department of Revenue, Massachusetts is now in a position to collect overdue tax liabilities which might otherwise be forgone," Jones said in a statement.
Under the two-month program, which would still need Senate approval, individuals and businesses could pay off their past state tax liabilities, but all penalties that had been assessed would be waived.
Up to $5 million of the revenue that is brought in through the amnesty program would go into a fund that would help local police departments purchase Narcan, a drug that can help reverse overdoses of heroin or other opioids.
Jones said the state took in more than $100 million during a tax amnesty program in 2002.
The proposal would allow the revenue agency to select the two months to institute the program during fiscal year 2015.
The budget debate was expected to continue in the House for several days.
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, said at the outset of debate that the budget calls for about a 5 percent increase in overall spending but no new taxes. He said the budget would also accelerate payments to the state's pension system, allowing it to be fully funded four years earlier than the under the current schedule.
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