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Missouri's Revenue director to resign

Missouri's Revenue director to resign

March 15th, 2019 by Bob Watson in Missouri News
This undated photo from his LinkedIn profile shows Joel Walters.

Missouri Revenue Director Joel Walters will resign, according to the Kansas City Star.

Walters had been under fire for weeks for not doing enough to warn Missouri taxpayers that they could be facing tax bills when, in the past, they had been receiving refunds from their Missouri taxes.

Gov. Mike Parson's office said it would make an official announcement Friday morning, according to the Star. The News Tribune was unable to reach Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones for a comment Thursday night.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr in February created the Special Committee on Government Oversight to look into the situation, and the committee held some meetings before Parson accused them of "grandstanding."

Although the tax changes affecting refunds largely were triggered by Congress' changes to federal tax law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, Missouri lawmakers have complained that state Revenue officials should have warned Missouri taxpayers earlier than late last summer that the federal changes would impact the Missouri tax bills.

On Wednesday, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported it had obtained records, through a Sunshine Law request that showed the department had drafted a press release aimed at notifying taxpayers they should increase their paycheck withholdings to avoid a surprise tax bill this year — but the news release never was issued.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said in a Thursday afternoon statement: "The Parson administration was aware in the fall that the Trump tax law would result in surprise tax bills for countless Missourians.

"Instead of taking steps to warn Missourians of this problem, the administration covered it up to prevent it from being an issue ahead of the November elections."

In a separate statement Thursday evening, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, thanked the special committee and its chairman, Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, "for leading our efforts to protect Missouri taxpayers. Without the investigation, oversight, and hearings they insisted upon, the people would never have known the truth about the mistakes made by the Revenue Department."

Haahr added: "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.

"I've asked the committee to continue its work in investigating this issue and working with the new director to ensure Missouri taxpayers are protected."

Ross said in the House GOP news release: "Missouri taxpayers deserve competency and honesty in their state agencies.

"The Department of Revenue's failures and subsequent cover-up will impact the pocketbooks and trust of many Missourians.

"As legislators, we have a duty to hold bureaucrats accountable when they're not forthright with the taxpayers, and I've never shied away from that."

Quade said: "The resignation of Director Walters is just a first step that must include Gov. Parson taking full responsibility for his administration's failures and committing to providing relief to those Missourians who are in a financial bind as a result."

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would give taxpayers extra time to pay unexpected bills — although some acknowledged this week there might not be enough time to get those bills passed before the April deadline for filing returns.

One of those bills was sponsored by Sen. John Rizzo, D-Independence, who told reporters Thursday afternoon — before rumors of Walters' resignation began: "The department has not done a very good job of being forthright with Missourians on surprise refunds they may (or may not) be seeing in the next 30 days or so.

"We just want to be able to provide some relief for people."