HELENA (AP) - Gov. Brian Schweitzer's new revenue director believes he can find millions of dollars in additional money for the state each year by going after those who either evade taxes or escape paying them through loopholes.
''The vast majority of taxpayers work hard and pay their fair share, but there's a minority that have found their way around the tax system,'' said Dan Bucks of Missoula. ''We've been asked here to make sure everyone pays their fair share. It's both a question of equity and integrity.''
Bucks said that by enhancing enforcement and revising provisions that create some loopholes, he believes he can find an additional $15 million to $20 million in revenue annually for the state.
Bucks said he would seek a ''modest investment'' of $1 million over the next two years to hire additional staff to concentrate on areas where other states have found significant tax evasion. Schweitzer approved the additions in his proposed budget.
After serving 16 years as executive director of the Multistate Tax Commission, Bucks knows where to look to find abuses. The commission is a joint agency of 45 state governments and the District of Columbia that studies state tax issues and protects state tax authority.
Bucks said he has set his sights on stopping abusive tax shelters, preventing nonresidents and those leaving Montana from escaping taxes on profits earned from the sale or exchange of Montana real estate, and revising provisions that may unintentionally allow income to escape taxation.
While the state has enacted some good laws aimed at requiring taxes to be paid on money earned here, Bucks said the state faces some sophisticated challenges that must be addressed with new tools.
He said the Revenue Department wants to stop abusive tax sheltering and shifting of Montana income elsewhere, especially by wealthy individuals, nonresidents and multistate or multinational corporations.
''We welcome businesses to Montana, and we want to develop small businesses in Montana,'' Bucks said. ''But when companies do business in Montana, the rules are the same for everybody. Companies are equally accountable for their income earned in Montana.''
Bucks said Montana should follow the federal government and some states by passing a law requiring disclosure of abusive tax shelters used or marketed in Montana. The state would be better able to ferret out taxpayers who file in multiple states, telling one state one thing and Montana something else.
Senate Taxation Chairman Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek, said he believes the Senate will support Bucks' efforts.
''If someone makes a profit in Montana, the idea is you pay taxes in Montana,'' Elliott said.