- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Procrastinating tax cheats will get a few extra weeks to apply for an amnesty program that has been flooded with applications from people who hid assets overseas.

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it will extend the deadline, originally set for Wednesday, until Oct. 15.

More than 3,000 Americans have applied for the program, which promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax dodgers who come forward, said a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency has not publicly released the size of the program.

The IRS is extending the deadline to give a rush of applicants more time to prepare their paperwork. The agency said there will be no additional extensions.

Tax advisers said the program, combined with a high-profile case against Swiss banking giant UBS AG, has generated a lot of calls from nervous tax dodgers.

“They’re sitting in disbelief that this is going on,” said Richard Boggs, chief executive of Nationwide Tax Relief, a Los Angeles tax firm that specializes in clients with tax debts exceeding $100,000.

“I ask people to ask of themselves, ‘What is their peace of mind worth? What is a fresh start worth? What is a clear conscience worth?’ ”

The IRS long has had a policy that certain tax evaders who come forward before they are contacted by the agency usually can avoid jail time as long as they agree to pay back taxes, interest and hefty penalties. Drug dealers and money launderers need not apply. But if the money was earned legally, tax evaders can usually avoid criminal prosecution.

Fewer than 100 people apply for the program in a typical year, in part because the penalties can far exceed the value of the hidden account, depending on how long the account holder has evaded U.S. taxes.

But in March, the IRS began a six-month amnesty program that sweetened the offer with reduced penalties for people with undeclared assets. The program was extended after tax advisers from across the country contacted the IRS, requesting more time to prepare applications, IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said.

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