Comptroller’s office error gives windfall to county
$600K returned after geocode mistake
cmattix@ cecilwhig. com
— Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s announcement last month that his of fice made an error in calculations of income tax payments to Maryland counties and towns brought an early Christmas present to Cecil County.
Franchot told a joint committee of the General Assembly in midNovember that his of fice accidentally misdirected $ 21.4 million of local income tax payments between 2010 and 2014, resulting in overpayments to some jurisdictions and underpayments to others.
“It’s certainly good news for Cecil County since we’ll be getting back about $ 600,000,” Director of Finance Winston Robinson said Thursday. “Even though this is good news, it’s not a major windfall.”
He explained that it represents roughly 1 percent of the county’s $ 55.8 million in income tax revenue collected in 2016.
“The state is projecting weaker income tax revenues into the new year,
so this money could help us offset any possible decreases coming our way,” Robinson said.
Franchot told a panel of lawmakers last month that a recent audit revealed the mistake. He said the erroneous distributions resulted from failures to ensure that ever y single tax return went through a geocoding process with appropriate software that assigns it to the correct jurisdictions.
Eighty- nine jurisdictions received checks within days for money they should have received over the past five years. Another 83 jurisdictions, which received money in error, are required to pay it back to the state.
The audit showed that the state collected the right amount of money from taxpayers, but taxpayers were not always classified in the proper taxing districts. The comptroller’s of fice said the repayments will not have to begin until 2024 and they’ll have flexibility to spread payments over 10 years.
As a result of the problem, Franchot’s of fice announced they are making technological and procedural upgrades to ensure that all tax returns will be adequately geocoded in the future.
In addition, the office will conduct audits of these procedures and systems every two years, a Mar yland Association of Counties spokesperson said.