Time is running out for Washington businesses with delinquent taxes.
Their chance to save a bundle gets narrower by the day.
Gov. Chris Gregoire requested and the Legislature authorized an amnesty for businesses that owe back taxes.
Not on the taxes themselves. They still must be paid. But the penalties and interest are in a different category, and for that the state offers deliverance.
But businesses in arrears on any of these taxes have only a couple of more weeks to file.
By April 18 you must:
* Submit an application.
* File all outstanding tax returns and any amended returns for which you are requesting a waiver.
All taxes must be paid by April 30. After that, the amnesty ends and businesses will owe the whole package.
These are the taxes involved and on which penalties and interest will be waived (provided you file in time):
* State business and occupation (B&O) tax.
* State public utility tax.
* State and local sales and use taxes.
* General retail sales and use taxes.
* Rental car taxes.
* King County food and beverage tax.
* Additional sales and use tax on motor vehicle sales/leases.
* Lodging taxes, not including tourism promotion area lodging charges.
* Brokered natural gas use tax.
More than 5,000 businesses have filed so far and have paid more than $12.6 million into the state treasury.
That's real money for these businesses, but by paying the taxes under the amnesty law they saved themselves another $4.3 million in penalties and interest.
In other words, the businesses saved themselves 25 percent of what they owed -- and they're straight with the state to boot. (The amnesty, however, is not available to businesses found guilty of tax evasion in the past.)
It could be argued that by waiving the penalties and interest on the taxes, the state loses money on every transaction under the amnesty.
But as a practical matter, the 25 percent reduction might make the difference between getting 75 percent of the money owed or none at all.
It is estimated the amnesty program could collect about $24 million for the state, and about $4 million for local governments.
The state also estimates that about a fifth of 50,000 delinquent businesses will take advantage.
(This is not the time to argue over the unfairness of Washington's Business and Occupation Tax, although we have made that argument many times over the years.)
For details on the amnesty program go to www.PayMyTax.org.
These are tough times for the state and the businesses in it.
The amnesty program is an attempt to make the best of a bad situation.
It sounds reasonable to us.
But if you think your business may qualify, you better hop to it.
When it's gone, it's gone.