Oklahoma Tax Commission unable to process some returns because of cuts

Friday, May 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Oklahoma Tax Commission hasn't been able to get to about 250,000 tax returns because budget cuts have forced the agency to furlough employees.

Most of those returns arrived around April 15, Tax Commission spokeswoman Paula Ross said Thursday. Last-minute filers expecting a refund could see their checks delayed by several months.

State agencies learned recently they would have to take a 16.8 percent funding cut in May and June because of a revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year.

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Historical Society and Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission also have had to make their employees take unpaid days off to make up for the lost money.

The Tax Commission anticipates that all its 1,100 employees will be furloughed for 24 hours, Ross said. All furloughs won't occur at the same time, she told the Tulsa World's Capitol bureau.

``We are trying not to disrupt the work flow,'' Ross said.

More than 225 contract employees have been terminated and the Tax Commission has temporarily stopped using a data processing company since April. The firm and the contract workers all processed returns.

About 80 percent of the 250,000 tax returns are owed a refund, Ross said.

It could be up to 12 weeks before the returns are processed and checks are in the mail, she said. Up until April 10, the agency was getting refunds sent out in about eight days, she said.

``We are getting a lot of calls from people that have not gotten refunds,'' Ross said. ``We know how important the refunds are to people and we are doing the best we can right now.''

The agency will have to process sales, tourism and use taxes first, because the money is ``apportioned to all the cities in the state,'' she said.

``Cities have to have their money to run.''