No excuses for dishonesty in taxation department

Anyone involved in the Ohio Department of Taxation’s scheme of keeping millions of dollars that ought to have been returned to taxpayers should be fired. The arrogance and dishonesty of what happened demands it.

An investigation by the state Inspector General has revealed that at least since 1999, some businesses that overpaid taxes and requested refunds were not sent the money that was lawfully theirs. About $34 million being held by the tax department was identified as being in that category.

Some of the money has been refunded and more is being processed, tax Commissioner Joe Testa told a reporter. He added that his agency “had an obligation to return those overpayments” but did not.

Perhaps even worse, the department had a practice of not informing taxpayers of overpayments, according to the Inspector General. No one can say how much money was retained by the state because taxpayers were not even aware they had sent too much to Columbus.

Obviously, someone in the tax department made the decision years ago to operate dishonestly. Some agency employees involved in handling the situation may not have even realized they were doing something dishonest and illegal.

But someone, perhaps several people, did know they were behaving unethically and illegally.

The Inspector General’s office, having uncovered the scheme, should continue its investigation to find out how the system was put in place – and what tax department officials were responsible for it.

Once that is done, those who established and continued the policy should be fired – and, if enough evidence exists, prosecuted. This is one of the most outrageous abuses of the public’s trust we have heard of in some time. Someone needs to be held accountable.