Employees react to plan to close regional taxpayer service centersWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) in Cleveland responded to Governor Kasich’s plan to close the taxpayer service centers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, Dayton and Zanesville that was announced as a part of the governor’s budget plan on March 15.
“We will be added to the unemployment count in Ohio, not a job creation action by the Kasich administration,” Patricia Schulte-Singleton, an OCSEA Steward at the Cleveland Taxpayer Service Center said.
Schulte-Singleton told Toledo Free Press during a telephone interview on March 16 that the closures would put approximately 99 people out of work, including members of the bargaining unit and administration. She said this would also impact auditing and enforcement staff housed in the centers.
“There are unknowns with this, take the enforcement agents, where is evidence they collect going to be housed,” Schulte-Singleton said.
While electronic technology has advanced, Schulte-Singleton said that the Cleveland office sees an average of 25 people each day, during tax season that number increases dramatically. “Taxpapers can come to those service centers to get their taxes done free, there are many who don’t have computers or are capable or familiar enough with computers to do their own taxes,” Schulte-Singleton said. “We also resolve sales tax issues, we help educate, many come in to use our kiosk computers and we guide them in using the online systems.”
A release from OCSEA stated the closing of the Ohio Department of Taxation Cleveland Taxpayer Service Center would no longer allow Ohio taxpayers to receive personal face-to-face assistance regionally pertaining to Ohio taxes such as Personal Income Tax, Sales Tax, International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), Employer Withholding, Commercial Activity Tax or Corporate Franchise Tax. Ohio taxpayers would have to travel to Columbus to resolve tax issues.
The Cleveland Taxpayer Service Center along with the other 6 service centers across Ohio, currently and exclusively administer several revenue generating tax programs:
T-610 Motor Vehicle Title Program (1.9 million dollars), Aircraft Program (1.4 million dollars), Watercraft Exemption Certificate & Purchase Program (1.7 million dollars) and Sales Tax Delinquency Program (3.6 million dollars). Each compliance program administered through Cleveland has helped to generate millions of tax dollars. In the calendar year of 2010, the taxpayer service centers processed and direct deposited over 46.2 million in tax dollars.
Schulte-Singleton said that there are currently three out of state Ohio tax offices, one in Chicago was opened in 1989 — one in Los Angeles and one in the New York area were opened shortly after that. “Those offices have a total of 28 out of state auditors, with vacancies pending,” she said.
“The employees are paid by the state of Ohio and are paid a cost of living deferral so they are generally paid more than those who work in Ohio,” Schulte-Singleton said. “These offices have higher rental rates, the tax auditing agents that live and work in Ohio routinely conduct out of state audits in the areas of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago as it is now.”
She said an e-mail received by employees from newly appointed Tax Commissioner Joe Testa gave the impression that this was a “done deal” but that she and other employees were going to lobby their elected representation. As an almost 23 year employee, saving her job was a motivation but she also said the closing of the regional taxpayer service centers would create a scenario where Ohio would not be collecting owed tax dollars and it would negatively impact the services provided to Ohio taxpayers.