Missouri's second tax-amnesty program in two years is simple: Overdue taxpayers can pay the state all the taxes, bad-check charges and lien fees they owe and escape having to pay interest and penalties.

The program, which began in August and will end Oct. 31, is expected to raise in the vicinity of $10 million, well below the $70 million brought in last year. Since the 2002 program was three times as successful as expected, state officials are undoubtedly keeping their fingers crossed that lightning will strike twice.

Those willing to take the chance that the state won't come after them are risking additional penalties if and when they are caught. Their best option is simply to cough up what they owe and walk away with a smile.

We consider the back-to-back amnesty programs excessive, although it is understandable that the state is grasping at anything that promises to increase revenues. What is most disturbing is that many of those people who ignored the first amnesty program are getting a second chance. How much more revenue might have been raised by the state if it had forgotten the second amnesty period and collected the interest and penalties that are owed?

A 25 percent collection fee may be added to the bills of those who decline to pay their back taxes before Oct. 31. According to the state, taxes that were due before Dec. 31, 2002, are eligible for tax amnesty unless the taxes are subject to pending civil, criminal or bankruptcy litigation.

The amnesty program is a good deal for those who owe the state and are ready to pay up. For those who continue to ignore their tax debt, it will ultimately bring an unnecessary, extra expense.

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