ER­ROR

Cecil Whig - - WE ATHE R -

Natale said.

This mis­clas­si­fi­ca­tion stemmed from fail­ures to en­sure that ev­ery sin­gle tax re­turn went through a geocod­ing process with ap­pro­pri­ate soft­ware that as­signs it to the cor­rect ju­ris­dic­tions, he said.

The prob­lem be­gan in 2010, the year the comptroller’s of­fice stopped send­ing tax book­lets and forms to in­di­vid­ual fil­ers. In­cluded with that in­for­ma­tion were en­velopes that were pre-coded to tell the comptroller’s of­fice where the tax­payer’s res­i­dence was lo­cated, Natale said.

Af­ter the state stopped send­ing the ma­te­ri­als by mail in 2010 though, tax­pay­ers who wished to file by pa­per had to go on­line, down­load the forms and send them in. Those pa­per re­turns were scanned in and put through a soft­ware sys­tem that geocoded them. But if the sys­tem didn’t ac- cept a pa­per tax re­turn when it was scanned in for any rea­son, the of­fice man­u­ally keyed in the re­turns us­ing the same geocodes the tax­payer had put on their forms, Natale said.

“They found that 25 per­cent of tax­pay­ers misiden­ti­fied their tax­ing ju­ris­dic­tion,” he said. “So a lot of the is­sue is that peo­ple with a 21901 zip code put for their tax­ing ju­ris­dic­tion the town of North East when they should have put ‘Ce­cilall other ar­eas.’”

The sit­u­a­tion got worse in 2011 when the comptroller’s of­fice ran out of space on its main­frame and, in or­der to save space, went back and pulled the cod­ing in­for­ma­tion off the prior year’s re­turn. So while this is­sue re­sulted in over­pay­ing North East just $15,568 in 2010, it nearly dou­bled in 2011 to $29,270 and then to $49,695 in 2012, $121,697 in 2013 and $126,546 in 2014, Natale said.

Natale noted that it’s also pos­si­ble that the town may face an in­come tax rev­enue short­fall for 2017.

“Thank­fully we were fairly con­ser­va­tive on pro­ject­ing in­come tax rev­enue for 2017. We may have a $30,000 short­fall, but that’s very dif­fi­cult to pin down,” he said. “But the bright side is we did build in $50,000 in con­tin­gency for si­t­u­a­tions just like this.”

As a re­sult of the prob­lem, Fran­chot an­nounced that his of­fice is mak­ing tech­no­log­i­cal and pro­ce­dural up­grades to en­sure that all tax re­turns will be ad­e­quately geocoded in the fu­ture.

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