Tax Amnesty Clears Committee, Moves on to Rules

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff said another tax amnesty would send the wrong message to residents.(File photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)
Sen. Dwayne DeGraff said another tax amnesty would send the wrong message to residents. (V.I. Legislature file photo by Barry Leerdam)

Virgin Islanders may have one more chance to catch up on their tax bills without paying any penalties.

No one at Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Finance Committee appeared enthusiastic about another tax amnesty, but the senators said many residents were still recovering from the double hit of hurricanes in 2017, so they were willing to offer one more window of 180 days for tax amnesty.

Joel Lee, director of the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue, said, “If we were not still in post-recovery, I would not support this bill.”

The bill would establish a 180-day amnesty period for the waiver of penalties for payment of outstanding income taxes and the waiver of interest and penalties for payment of outstanding gross receipt taxes for all previous tax years. Originally the bill only covered tax years 2017 and 2018 but was amended to cover all years.

Its stated goal is “to assist taxpayers recovering from the aftermath of catastrophic hurricanes Irma and Maria.” It will require Lee to publish information on the amnesty.

Sen. Kurt Vialet said it needed to be clear to residents that, if they came forward, they would be accepted into the program.

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff was one of the senators who expressed the notion that a tax amnesty was sending the wrong message to residents. However, he was the only committee member who voted against sending the bill forward to the Rules and Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation.

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory who said residents deserved “one last chance” voted with the majority.

The last tax amnesty covered only gross receipt taxes and ended July of last year.

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