JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As millions of taxpayers continue filing their federal and state returns, many anxiously await the check in hopes of a large return.
Oftentimes, that wait can seem to last forever, but Missouri state law requires the Department of Revenue to process income tax returns and send out the refunds within 45 days of the filing.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway aims to make sure that Missouri is upholding their end of the deal in that regard. The only Democrat in a Missouri executive office announced the start of an audit Wednesday to make sure Missouri’s citizens receive their tax refunds quickly and efficiently, and that if they do not, they are paid the interest owed to them as required by law.
“Missourians have a right to their money and to know the clock starts the day they file their income taxes,” Auditor Galloway said. “The state has an obligation to process refund payments quickly and efficiently, and I’ve started this audit to ensure the government is held accountable to Missouri taxpayers.”
Previously, DOR had 90 days to send the refund, but in 2015, the General Assembly changed the law as many critics complained that the state was too slow in processing tax refunds.
Galloway argues that the issue of late returns is not only in violation of the law, but increases the money the state must pay out, meaning less funding to be used for budgetary needs. And in era of big budgets and large shortfalls, every penny counts.
“Issuing refunds on time is the right thing to do for Missouri workers waiting on a check, and it’s important to prevent the state from racking up interest charges and running up the current budget shortfall, which is estimated at a half-billion dollars next year,” she said in a release issued Wednesday.
The move is one of the first parts of the newly-announced Budget Integrity Series by Galloway and the Office of the State Auditor, which they started in an effort to serve as watchdogs on the state budget and examine what factors are causing the state’s current budget issues. The overall goal is to compile the data and use it to see just how Missouri’s policy-makers can improve going forward.
“The state budget is more than just numbers on paper. The decisions made in Jefferson City have real consequences for Missouri families who feel the effects in their communities,” Galloway said.
Galloway’s Budget Integrity Series will include an annual review of the state’s use of federal dollars, an annual review of state revenue, a comparison of Missouri economic rankings to other states, an audit of tax credit programs, an audit of sales, corporate, and income tax exemptions and impacts, and finally the audit announced on Wednesday, looking into the state’s timeliness when it comes to the issuance of tax returns. The audits will also be looking into the state’s spending obligations while taking into account the rising costs of social services and healthcare.
The auditor argues the series is needed because the process may be set up to fail. While the legislature finishes each session meeting the balanced budget requirement, Galloway says the budget appears to balance on paper, but no one is held accountable down the road when the state struggles financially.
Galloway asks that any Missourians who have not had their refund issued within the 45-day limit to contact her office through the Whistleblower Hotline. To do so, call 800-347-8597, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use the online submission form at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.