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Budget cuts slowing tax refunds

DoR behind on 430,000 paper returns

POSTED: June 17, 2009 9:31 a.m.
Frankie Thomas is still waiting on about $3,500 from his state taxes and doesn’t like having to “go through the dickens to get your money that you’ve already paid for.”
“All I’ve been getting is the run-around, really,” Thomas said of phone calls to the state Department of Revenue. “The automated answering service has been coming up on the phone.”
And he’s depending on that money.
“$3,500 goes a long way, in the right places, when you really need it,” Thomas said. “And not to have your money back on time, it does make you a little perturbed.”
The DoR announced last week it was behind on 430,000 paper returns because of staffing shortages from Gov. Sonny Perdue’s recent budget cuts to state agencies.
“That’s an excuse,” Thomas said, adding they could have prepared ahead of time. “Every time I get a check, you take my money out, automatically. So why should I have to go through a delay to get my money back?”  
Despite the governor’s order, the department added 70 new, temporary staff this and last week and 35,000 returns were done.
Late refunds shouldn’t become a habit if Georgia wants to maintain public confidence, according to Dr. Richard McGrath, Armstrong Atlantic State University economics professor.
“I think that’s a concern, from a policy standpoint, that it may be politically convenient,” McGrath said of the late refunds. “But it does seem it may not be, in the long run, in the best interest of state collections.”
Mistrust in the state’s efficiency may lead to people manipulating their tax filings to avoid paying so much to the state and waiting indefinitely for refunds, according to McGrath.
“People have a reasonable expectation for getting their money back from the state in a timely
fashion,” McGrath said. “...if things are [significantly] slowed down, a lot people start seeing that as unreasonable.”
Thomas does his own taxes and filed in March, plenty of time before the April 15 deadline.
“I’ve never had a problem, all the years I’ve been filing taxes,” said the veteran.
Backlog processing is now scheduled to take 10 to 14 weeks for those who filed before April 10, according to the DoR press release.
Thomas is leery.
“It’s hard to believe somebody after they let you down, one or two times,” Thomas said. “It only takes one time for somebody to hurt you with your money.”
“The Department of Revenue is committed to processing the remaining returns as quickly and accurately as possible, and these additional workers will certainly expedite the number of returns we can process each week,” revenue Commissioner Bart Graham said.
 

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