OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state tax returns of as many as 5,000 Oklahomans have been misplaced because of a computer problem, an Oklahoma Tax Commission spokeswoman said.

People who have inquired about missing tax refund checks have been told to fax their returns to the commission, spokeswoman Paula Ross said Tuesday.

``We have tried to work the returns that had a process problem as soon as we were notified,'' Ross said.

The problem occurred when incorrect bar codes were used by a tax-return company and by some income tax return software products, Ross said. The Tax Commission's computers were unable to read these codes.

Gene Wells of Woodward mailed in his return in January and still has not received his $57 refund. He contacted the Tax Commission and was told to send another copy. He did so, by mail instead of fax, and this put his return in with all the others that arrived by mail in April, and this caused further delays, Ross said.

Ross said he should receive his check next week.

``It's not that much money we're going to get back, but still it bothers me that we're not getting it,'' said Wells, a 67-year-old electronics technician.

This year, about 98 percent of state tax refunds have been mailed out in less than 30 days, Ross said. The Tax Commission will process between 1.5 million and 1.6 million tax returns this year.

So far, the Tax Commission has processed 1.4 million returns, with about 72 percent of them involving a refund.

The average amount of refunds is $424.34.

People wishing to check on refunds can call the Tax Commission at 405-521-3160 and be ready to provide their Social Security number and amount of refund.