Comptroller’s of­fice er­ror gives wind­fall to county

$600K re­turned af­ter geocode mis­take

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

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,

ELK­TON

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.

ROBIN­SON

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