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      Illinois shoppers asked to pay up on online taxes

      Illinoisans can often dodge sales taxes by shopping online, but the state of Illinois is hoping to collect on those taxes next year by offering a sales tax amnesty.

      A new law allows people who didn TMt pay sales tax on items bought online, through the mail or over the phone between June 20, 2004, and the end of 2010 to pay what they owe without penalty. The tax amnesty runs from Jan. 1 through Oct. 15.

      Department of Revenue spokeswoman Sue Hofer tells the Springfield State Journal-Register that Illinois also plans to offer a more detailed worksheet on state income tax return forms to get taxpayers to pay up.

      Hofer says the state of Illinois can't force other states to charge a sales tax, but they can charge you, if you buy anything that will be used within the state. Many people have gotten around the Illinois sales tax by buying online or out of state. Now, years after your tax-free purchases, the state wants that tax.

      "It's certainly not surprising that the Department of Revenue's asking for every nickel and dime to help bay the bills," said Kim Clarke Maisch, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

      That means looking through every receipt in the last six years to see which taxes you paid and which you didn't.

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      "I think, frankly, that the department is dreaming that people are going to do this," said Maisch.

      "The state of Illinois has asked shoppers to pay the equivalent tax. They have for years and years," said Sue Hofer.

      Just recently, a new law requires people who did not pay a sales tax between June 20, of 2004, and the end of 2010 to pay what they owe without penalty.

      "How are they going to do that?" said Tonya Spradlin, a Quincy resident.

      "What we're anticipating is that people will remember when they paid money for a 62" flat screen TV, and will use the amnesty program," said Hofer.

      The new law focuses more on big purchases.

      "We'll check our records to see if that buyer paid tax in Illinois. If not, you'll get a bill," said Hofer. "With interest. It helps create a more level playing field for stores in your neighborhood, because they can't avoid charging sales tax. It's not fair, it's just not right," said Hofer.

      "I'm just not sure the tax payers are going to be that in tuned and frankly, they're not going to care, because in their opinion, the state's in a mess and it's not because of the taxpayers, it's because of the leadership in the state," said said Maisch.

      To report your tax-free purchases, go to www.tax.illinois.gov and click on the "individuals" tab.

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