Governments of all kinds have frequently turned to tax amnesties as part of their fiscal programs. An amnesty typically allows individuals or firms to pay previously unpaid taxes without being subject to some or all of the financial and criminal penalties that the discovery of tax evasion normally brings. In the last twenty years, nearly forty states in the United States have enacted some form of tax amnesty, sometimes more than once. Many other countries have also used one or more amnesties. These countries include those in all parts of the world: in Europe (Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland), Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay), Asia (India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), and the Pacific (Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines).
Tax amnesties are a controversial revenue tool. The obvious purpose of a tax amnesty is to raise short-run revenue. This may or may not work, and it can bring about expectations of future amnesties thereby reducing taxpayer compliance after the amnesty. This paper discusses basic design features of an amnesty, evaluates the benefits and costs of an amnesty, examines the country experiences of several "typical" amnesties, and presents some conclusions and recommendations for the introduction of a tax amnesty in the Russian Federation. Working Paper Number 98-06.