Members of a bipartisan Missouri House oversight committee grilled the state Department of Revenue (DOR) director again Wednesday in Jefferson City about a tax error that is impacting some people’s tax returns.
DOR Director Joel Walters testified again before the House Special Committee on Government Oversight, telling lawmakers that his department has not done an effective job of communicating about the issue to Missourians.
He testifies DOR is placing cards at all Missouri license offices and is mailing fliers to employers requesting they post the information in employee break rooms.
Walters says the impact of the federal 2017 tax cut is a primary reason for lower state tax refunds this year. State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, the committee’s vice chairman, questioned Walters during Wednesday’s committee hearing.
“The vast majority of this is the impact of the (federal) Tax Cut and Jobs Act and the inter-relation between the W-4’s and the withholding,” Walters testifies.
“So what other states have felt the same impact, what other states have had this error?” Schroer asks Walters. “There’s nine other states,” Walters responds.
Walters says Idaho, Utah and Massachusetts are among the nine other states that have been impacted. He testifies that Missouri state tax refunds are about $80 lower than a year ago.
He says the state tax refunds are about $80 lower than a year ago, in part because of an inaccurate calculation involving the federal tax deduction. That error dates back to 2004.
Walters also admits his department has not done a good job of communicating about the tax error. Walters’ comment came in response to a question from Schroer, who says his St. Charles County constituents are livid.
“Then my phone is ringing off the hook. So what has the department done, first off do you believe that the department has done a good job in communicating this to the general public?” Schroer asks.
“No,” Walters told him.
Walters testifies DOR has created a dedicated phone line to answer questions from Missouri taxpayers. That number is (573) 522-0967.
He is encouraging taxpayers with questions to call that number. Walters tells State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, that you’ll reach a live operator, when you call.
“Those have not switched to automated phone systems yet, correct?” Merideth asks Walters. “That is something I may do in the future but have not done yet. 100 percent of our calls are answered by a person,” Walters testifies.
Meantime, the committee chairman says DOR Director Walters was reluctant to testify Wednesday before his committee. House Special Committee on Government Oversight Chairman Robert Ross, R-Yukon, spoke to Missourinet after the hearing.
“Initially he (Walters) had some concerns about coming back and frankly answering the questions of the taxpayers of Missouri,” Ross says. “That’s why he’s the director of the Department of Revenue, that’s the expectation, that’s why we pay him to be the director.”
Chairman Ross is most concerned about what he calls the lack of communication from Revenue. Ross also confirms the oversight committee will hold a third hearing on the tax issue next Wednesday in Jefferson City.
Ross reiterates that committee members want to know how the error occurred, and want to make sure “that this sort of situation does not happen again.”