July 3, 2015

Wisconsin checking for fraudulent tax returns

The state Department of Revenue is taking a closer look at nearly 60,000 tax returns, amid reports that other states have seen an uptick in fraudulent filings in the past week.

DOR spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis says there have been no cases of widespread fraud reported in Wisconsin. However, she says they want to be cautious in order to make sure refunds are going to the correct person.

Marquis says the review process involves ramping up an identity protection program that has been used previously to detect fraud. If your return is flagged, the agency will reach out with questions that will need to be answered before it can be processed. “It may mean that you’ll get asked to take a quiz, or you will receive a letter asking you to provide documentation.”

Marquis says the extra scrutiny could slow down the processing time for some returns, although electronic filing remains the fastest way to process refunds. The identity verification effort helped save taxpayers almost $50 million last year.

Walker’s transportation borrowing elicits bipartisan concerns

Verona Road project, Madison (WRN photo)

Verona Road project, Madison (WRN photo)

Governor Scott Walker’s plans to pay for the state’s transportation needs through increased borrowing are likely to face close scrutiny once lawmakers get down to the task of assessing the Republican governor’s proposed 2015-’17 state budget proposal. “There are going to be things that we think are great, and there are going to be things that we have deep concerns about as this budget goes forward,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). “It’s important for everybody across Wisconsin to realize that while we are strong supporters of Governor Walker, this is his budget and we’ll have opportunity to shape it according to what we think the priorities of Wisconsin are, over the next few months.”

Walker’s budget proposal includes more than $1.5 billion dollars in bonding, mostly for transportation projects. “Our caucus has discussed it, and we have sincere concerns about relying so heavily on borrowing to fund transportation and infrastructure,” Vos said. “We want to see what the exact details of the proposal are as we move forward.

“For me, I would look towards a comprehensive approach, looking at reducing bonding, perhaps reforms in the Department of Transportation, and possibly finding some (revenue) increases,” said Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) who co-chairs the legislature’s budget writing Joint Committee on Finance. That last option hasn’t proved popular with Wisconsin voters. “In our Marquette Law School poll we’ve seen that people value transportation, but when we ask specifically ‘would you pay more gas tax or vehicle registration,’ those are not popular options,” noted Marquette University political scientist Charles Franklin.

Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) also serves on the Joint Finance Committee. “I think there’s more agreement than there normally is” Hintz said. “I’m pleased to hear my Republican colleagues that are concerned . . . to the level of bonding being proposed for transportation,” Hintz said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) shares the concerns of his Assembly colleagues. “It’s a great sign that the overall level of bonding is lower, but in relationship to infrastructure I think there’s some concerns about that.”

Baldwin reintroduces ‘Buffett Rule’ legislation

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is moving forward with a “Paying a Fair Share Act.” Also known as the Buffett Rule, it would require that multimillion dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate.

“For far too long our tax code has unfairly favored the wealthiest Americans, while middle class families in Wisconsin have struggled to get ahead,” said Baldwin, who along with Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse led a group of 16 Senators in introducing legislation this week.

The bill from Baldwin and her fellow Democrats is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“If our new Republican majority truley believes in strengthening the economic security of our middle class, I hope they’ll join us in supporting this common sense idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have a chance to get ahead,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the legislation would produce some 70 billion dollars in revenue over the next ten years.

Walker says property tax cuts a priority

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

Gov. Scott Walker (Photo: WRN)

As his second term gets underway, the governor says cutting property taxes will once again be a priority for him.

Governor Scott Walker told members of the Wisconsin Bankers Association on Thursday that there are many taxes he would like to cut, including income and corporate taxes. However, with the state facing a possible $2.2 billion budget shortfall, he must focus on what will have the greatest impact. “As we prepare for this next budget, it’s going to be tough to cut all the taxes we’d like to cut all at once,” Walker said, “so our number one priority is property taxes.”

Walker noted that he met his goal of cutting the state’s tax burden during each of his first four years in office, and he’s hoping to do it again.

The governor will deliver his budget to the Legislature on February 3.

Wisconsin Republican leaders show caution over tax cuts

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (Photo:WRN )

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (Photo:WRN )

Republican leaders in the state Legislature are showing caution over the possible future of tax cuts this session.

With the state facing a possible $2.2 billion budget deficit, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says another round of income or property tax cuts could be a difficult sell with Republicans. “I wouldn’t say either one of them are off the table. But, what I would say is, in a very tight budget situation that we find ourselves in, it’s going to become more and more difficult to talk to members and says this is something that should be a priority.”

Fitzgerald blames the projected shortfall on what he calls a slowdown in economic activity currently facing the state. He says that’s going to make some members very cautious. Because of that, he says “it’s pretty difficult to forecast as we stand here today what may gain momentum” when talking about taxes.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has voiced similar concerns, adding that a small reduction is possible but he does not see any sizable cuts being made early on this session as lawmakers prepare to start work on the next state budget.