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More than 100,000 Missourians await tax refunds from department lacking director

Auditor's office receives hundreds of complaints

More than 100000 Missourians await...

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri Department of Revenue is still processing at least 123,918 tax refunds from income tax returns for 2018.

Refunds for returns that were filed with before April 15 were supposed to be issued by June 1, and now accrue interest payments from the state because they are considered late. To date, the department has paid approximately $265,000 in interest, compared to $219,581.17 for all of last year.

Interest is accumulating for the refunds that are still pending.

A Department of Revenue lawyer said they have processed 40,918 pending refunds, which have a total value of $13,163,153. An additional 83,000 refunds have been flagged for manual review. "A number of things can flag a return, including filer error and potential fraud alerts," said DOR spokesperson Anne Marie Moy.

When asked what is causing the delay, Moy said the department in November made a "once-in-a-generation upgrade to a decades-old system that was no longer efficient." So far, the department has returned more than $700 million in refunds, according to DOR counsel Daniel Follett.

"Any time you bring a new system online, you can expect some growing pains. However, despite that, we have issued about 92% of the total number of refunds that we had issued this time last year under the old system," Moy said.

Here is a link to the Department of Revenue's website for personal income tax. A hotline for individuals with questions on their returns has also been established. That number is 573-522-0967.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway told ABC 17 News last week that her office has received more than 350 complaints from Missourians awaiting their refunds.

"People assumed they were getting their refunds within a few weeks of filing their income tax refunds and are now finding months and months worth of delays," Galloway said Thursday. She added that when complainants agree to identify themselves, her office refers the complaints to DOR.

Complainants also were concerned that the Department of Revenue was not adequately informing them about the status of their refund, according to a spokesperson for Galloway's office.

"It is one of (the Department of Revenue's) core functions to get people their own money back. And it is incredibly disappointing when they see people’s money being held up, and they cannot get answers from the Department of Revenue as to why that is occurring," Galloway said. "Tax refund time comes at the same time every year, this is not a surprise. If there are system errors, those should have been worked out before we hit tax season."

State lawmakers investigated the department during the legislative session in March amid concern that state withholding tables had been incorrectly calculated.

The department director at the time, Joel Walters, resigned from the position on March 15.

Ken Zellers, the chief operating officer for DOR and former executive at Anheuser-Busch InBev, was immediately appointed to interim director.

Several Republican lawmakers praised the resignation, some adding that the department under Walters -- a Greitens appointee -- attempted to cover up the mistakes.

The day before Walters' departure was announced, Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, a Republican from Springfield, said, "the resignation of the director is an important step forward, but the department has much more work to do to regain the trust of the public."

Gov. Mike Parson has yet to appoint a permanent director for the department. A spokesperson for his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.


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