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Budget cuts slow handling of Mississippi income tax returns

A second round of midyear budget cuts took place just as the Mississippi Department of Revenue was swamped with thousands of individual income tax filings.

Because of the cuts, the department had to send home 35 temporary workers it had hired to open mail because it couldn’t afford to keep them, agency spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said Tuesday.

Other employees of the department are working extra hours to open the returns that have arrived since the April 18 deadline to file individual income taxes, she said. That includes auditors, revenue officers and customer service agents.

“Every last one of us will be doing some time in the mail room and doing key punch,” Waterbury told The Associated Press.

Waterbury said employees have worked Saturday and after normal business hours on weekdays to try to catch up.

“I’ve got the paper cuts to prove it,” she said.

The Department of Revenue’s budget started at $73.4 million for the year that began July 1. It has been cut nearly $1.1 million. Waterbury said that in addition to laying off the temporary workers, the department has reduced travel for revenue-producing employees.

“It was either that or furlough employees,” she said.

Gov. Phil Bryant trimmed budgets for most state agencies in January and April because tax collections have fallen short of expectations because of a sluggish state economy.

Legislators in recent years have tried to pump more money into the Department of Revenue, reasoning it was a good investment to spend money on the agency that collects taxes for state government.

The deadline for filing corporate taxes was in mid-March, and Waterbury said department employees have processed most of those. She said the department has about “10 humungous buggies” of paper forms for individual tax returns to open and process.

Because of the slowdown in opening and processing individual tax returns, state tax collections fell short of projections in April, but the numbers should pick up in May as more of that work is completed, Waterbury said.


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