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Missouri Tax Returns Delayed, Auditor Galloway Calls For Action

Tens of thousands of Missourians are still waiting to receive their state tax refunds this year. 

And some are saying this year’s wait is particularly bad.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway said this has been an issue for years, under both Republican and Democratic governors. Despite significant improvements in the timeliness of refunds last year, Galloway said problems persist and little has been done to remedy the situation.

“I don’t care where this problem started from, whether it was Nixon or Parson, but it needs to be fixed,” Galloway said, referring to former Gov. Jay Nixon. “And the Department of Revenue and the governor who leads the Department of Revenue needs to address the issue on behalf of taxpayers.”

Gov. Mike Parson did not respond to a request for comment about the refund situation.   

In November, the state Revenue Department implemented a new online system and cited some “growing pains” as a potential hang-up this year. In a statement, the department said that despite the new system, it has issued “about 92% of the total number of refunds” that were issued at this time last year under the old system.

According to the department, there are more than 15,000 refunds pending, roughly 19,000 in manual review and close to 12,000 that “may be intercepted” for debt payments or other reasons. Altogether, roughly 45,000 returns need to be further reviewed or paid out. At this time last year, there were only 2,000 refunds pending and close to 11,000 refunds in manual review. 

A state audit shows Missouri paid roughly 80% of refunds by early May last year. However, in 2016 and 2017, the state did not reach that payout threshold until the end of June. As a result of late payment, the Revenue Department said it has paid nearly $800,000 in interest so far this year.

Mary Nussbaum, a certified financial planner in Missouri who’s been doing taxes for decades, said this year has been a real problem for some of her clients, and for one family in particular that filed in early February. 

“Her husband had retired somewhere in May. They had counted on this money to tide them over until his first retirement check came in,” Nussbaum said. “That time has come and gone, and they’re just not getting their Missouri refund.”

Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.