Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Legislative Panel Adopts 27 Tax Recommendations / to Boost Collections

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Legislative Panel Adopts 27 Tax Recommendations / to Boost Collections

Article excerpt

It should be a criminal offense when an employer embezzles income tax withheld from workers' wages, or otherwise fails to tur n the money in to the state, a joint legislative committee decided Thursday.

That was one of 27 recommendations adopted by the Special Joint Committee to Study the Oklahoma Tax Commission committee on Thursday to improve the tax commission's ability to collect taxes and enforce current tax laws.

"The withholding tax law should be amended to conform with the sales tax law regarding embezzlement," Rep. Kelly Haney, D-Seminole, said in a report circulated Thursday to members of the special committee.

There are no criminal sanctions in current state tax law for an employer's failure to turn in to the state income tax withheld from wages or for otherwise misappropriating the money, Haney said.

Public controversy over the tax commission's efficiency has grown since April, when a citizens' group led by Sen. Helen Cole, R-Moore, released a statement that an estimated $250 million in state taxes were not being collected.

Last week, John Waters, director of the management information services division of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, told the committee he "staked his job" on his estimate that only $51 million in state taxes had not been collected since 1931, when the tax commission was created.

"That's hogwash," Cole said Thursday of Waters' $51 million estimate, before Sen. Bob Cullison, the committee chairman, cut her off.

Among the 26 other proposed changes in state tax laws were recommendations to:

- Change the interest charges for underpayment of penalty and interest from 6 percent annually to 18 percent, the interest rate now charged for delinquent income tax payments.

- Change the penalty and interest on delinquent withholding of state income tax from 12 percent annually to 18 percent.

- Withhold 6 percent on oil and gas royalties paid to non-residents.

- Make the first offense of operating a business without a sales tax permit a misdemeanor and the second offense a felony.

- Require mandatory bonds for businesses holding sales tax permits that have a history of delinquent tax remittances or non-compliance, to ensure payment of sales tax.

- Modify the confidentiality requirement of the state tax code to enable the tax commission to make settlements of tax warrants public.

- Stop tax refunds to businesses doing business with the state, suppliers or contractors, for example, if that firm has any type of delinquent tax liability. …

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