Department of Revenue offers information to taxpayers

December 6, 2011

The state Department of Revenue created a listserv to better inform taxpayers.

The listserv alerts subscribers to changes in legislation, revisions to tax law, rate changes and any Department of Revenue programs. Join the listserv at www.dor.wa.gov/listserv. Enter your name and email address, select the button for join the “General Information” line, and then click submit.

Under state law, taxpayers must know their reporting obligations. The agency assisted taxpayers in the past by sending information to them as changes occur. However, due to recent budget cuts, the Department of Revenue is unable to send many of the informational mailings.

“We are going to be very judicious in our use of this listserv,” Janet Shimabukuro, assistant director of the department’s taxpayer services division, said in a statement. “We want to inform taxpayers of matters that may affect their companies. We don’t want to overload them with information they don’t need.”

Search for unclaimed cash in state online database

October 4, 2011

The state Department of Revenue returned unclaimed property to a record 108,441 claimants during the 2011 fiscal year, due in part to a sharp increase in businesses reporting unclaimed property to the state.

The number of individuals claiming property during the same period increased by more than 10,000 from the previous fiscal year. Individuals claimed $46.5 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Revenue Director Suzan DelBene said the number of businesses reporting unclaimed property increased substantially over the past decade, from fewer than 5,000 to more than 26,000. The director attributed publicity and continuing educational efforts to the increase in reporting.

Unclaimed property includes unclaimed paychecks, utility deposits, bank accounts, uncashed refunds, life insurance proceeds, stocks and bonds, and contents from safe deposit boxes.

During the past fiscal year, the Department of Revenue added 750,000 names and a record $102.5 million to the searchable online database of unclaimed property at www.claimyourcash.org. The database contains more than 3 million names and $821 million.

Department of Revenue enables Washingtonians to search for unclaimed cash

September 18, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Sept. 18, 2011

The state Department of Revenue returned unclaimed property to a record 108,441 claimants during the 2011 fiscal year, due in part to a sharp increase in businesses reporting unclaimed property to the state.

The number of individuals claiming property during the same period increased by more than 10,000 from the previous fiscal year. Individuals claimed $46.5 million in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Revenue Director Suzan DelBene said the number of businesses reporting unclaimed property increased substantially over the past decade, from fewer than 5,000 to more than 26,000. The director attributed publicity and continuing educational efforts to the increase in reporting.

Unclaimed property includes unclaimed paychecks, utility deposits, bank accounts, uncashed refunds, life insurance proceeds, stocks and bonds, and contents from safe deposit boxes.

During the past fiscal year, the Department of Revenue added 750,000 names and a record $102.5 million to the searchable online database of unclaimed property. The database contains more than 3 million names and $821 million.

Department of Revenue updates tax filing for businesses

April 19, 2011

Businesses filing state excise tax returns quarterly must file and pay electronically due to legislation effective July 23.

More than half of the state’s quarterly filers use E-file, the state Department of Revenue’s online filing tool.

Engrossed House Bill 1357 requires electronic filing and payment by all quarterly filers. Taxpayers with extenuating circumstances — such as no computer or no Internet access — can request a waiver.

Legislators required monthly filers to electronically file and pay in 2009.

Department Director Suzan DelBene said the agency requested the legislation as a way to save money for the state and for taxpayers.

“E-file improves the efficiency of state government by reducing paper handling. It also helps businesses avoid mistakes that can lead to costly penalties,” she said in a release. “In addition, this tool provides taxpayers with 24/7 access to their returns, automatic error checking, several electronic payment options and instantaneous delivery of the return with confirmation.”

The department plans to notify affected businesses in mid-May.

Unclaimed customer rebates prompt Costco to sue state

April 5, 2011

Costco filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Revenue in early March, after the agency ordered the Issaquah-based warehouse club to pay $3.2 million in unclaimed customer rebates.

The complaint in King County Superior Court came about a month after the state directed Costco to pay into a state fund for unclaimed property.

Costco paid the money, but is seeking to recoup the dollars in the lawsuit. The amount represents unclaimed rebates from the years 2004 to 2010, plus interest.

“The department’s action not only harms Washington consumers, but also sets a toxic precedent for any individual or business the department decides to subject to future demands for ‘unclaimed property,’” the lawsuit states.

Under state law, uncashed rebate checks constitute unclaimed property.

The order for Costco to pay the $3.2 million came after the Department of Revenue audited Costco’s customer-rebate program.

Read more

State offers a reprieve for delinquent taxpayers

February 7, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 7, 2011

The state is offering some businesses more time to settle old tax bills.

The state Department of Revenue launched a tax amnesty program Feb. 1 to waive penalties and interest on certain unpaid state business taxes.

Legislators OK’d the amnesty program for businesses facing overdue state tax bills in early December. Taxpayers may be eligible to pay the overdue taxes without penalties or interest under the amnesty program.

The amnesty — authorized by the Legislature during a one-day special session Dec. 11 — applies to state business-and-occupation and public-utility taxes, and state and local sales and use taxes.

“Hardworking business owners have faced some very tough economic times over the past several years,” Revenue Director Suzan DelBene said. “This program will help them meet their tax obligations without the additional burden of penalties and interest.”

Read more

Leaders seek input to simplify state tax system

January 31, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 31, 2011

The state Department of Revenue is in gathering ideas to simplify the tax system — and officials want input from residents.

The agency seeks ideas about how the state can simplify the tax system for small businesses. Officials launched a survey to collect input.

The department is soliciting tax-simplification ideas in response to a directive from Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The process includes meetings with stakeholders to gather information about the burdens and costs of complying with the tax system. The survey is intended to supplement the process and gather input from as broad a segment of the small business community as possible.

The department plans to present findings and recommendations to Gregoire by June 30.

Read more

State offers extended deadline to deliquent taxpayers

December 27, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 27, 2010

Some taxpayers just received more time to settle old tax bills.

Legislators rolled out a state amnesty program for taxpayers with overdue state taxes in early December. Taxpayers may be eligible to pay the overdue taxes without penalties or interest under the amnesty program.

The amnesty — authorized by the Legislature during a one-day special session Dec. 11 — applies to state business-and-occupation and public-utility taxes, and state and local sales and use taxes.

The amnesty program is open to registered and unregistered businesses.

Read more

Governor appoints former candidate to state post

December 21, 2010

Suzan DelBene lost the race to unseat the Issaquah representative, Congressman Dave Reichert, in November, but the Microsoft alumna has been appointed to a political post in Olympia instead of the other Washington.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has appointed DelBene as director of the state Department of Revenue, the agency responsible for tax collection.

DelBene has been tapped to lead the department as Gregoire seeks to simplify the tax system. Read more

State taxes not bad, comparatively speaking

August 3, 2010

Washingtonians shell out a smaller percentage of their income in state and local taxes than residents in 29 other states, a report issued July 27 by the state Department of Revenue shows.

Evergreen State residents paid $105.49 in state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income during the 2008 fiscal year, compared to the $111.99 national average. The state ranked 26th in 2007.

Washingtonians paid, on average, $4,354 in taxes during 2008 — just less than the $4,371 national average.

The report also compared property taxes.

Washington ranked No. 34 in property taxes per $1,000 personal income in 2008 — up from No. 32 in 2007.

Washingtonians paid $28.82 per $1,000 in property taxes. The national average: $34.49.

Washington ranked 26th in property taxes per capita at $1,189, or $57 less than the national average.

The report used information from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau offers the only source of tax data for all states. The figures do not reflect the sharp drop in tax revenues from the 2009 fiscal year.

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