Findlay Tax Administrator Andrew Thomas is apparently the only person in the administration that knows the ins and outs of the city’s unique system of collecting, or not collecting, estimated city income tax payments.
What would happen, for example, if Thomas is absent, or leaves the position? Is the program just put on autopilot?
Fortunately for the public, Councilman Dennis Hellmann has expressed a need to know more about the practice, so that he can explain it when people ask him about it. He even called a committee-of-the-whole meeting to learn more.
So much for enlightenment. During the meeting, which was held Tuesday, Thomas questioned the need for a written policy and procedure for the city tax practice. He indicated it’s something he can just “eyeball within minutes.”
That’s scary, too.
By its own accounting, the city tax department has reported that two individuals and 54 businesses were allowed not to pay estimated tax installments for a total of $1.08 million in payments for the tax year 2016.
City administrators have continued to defend the practice, based primarily on the argument that it keeps the city from having to write refund checks to those who overpay.
But it’s never been clearly explained who gets to participate. And despite the fact that it has been in use since 2009, the guidelines have apparently never been reduced to writing.
That’s also scary.
At last, a draft was submitted to an auditing firm used by the city in February, but has yet to be approved. Some members of the City Tax Board have not even seen the draft, let alone approved it.
One can only wonder if the tax program is something that Thomas can eyeball, why it’s taking so long for an auditor to put it to paper.
While there is no indication that anyone is dodging paying taxes (those participating pay them once a year, instead of quarterly), we’ve written here before that the policy lacks transparency and on the surface suggests that some businesses can participate while others can’t.
We’ve also argued the policy may have served a purpose at one point, when city finances were tighter, but is no longer needed. We have also wondered why Findlay is the only municipality in the state to permit businesses and individuals to skip estimated tax payments.
Thomas is just doing his job, but this is government, not private business. At the very least, the administration must push harder for a written policy to be put in place if only so Hellmann can explain to his constituents how the program works and who gets to play.
Like him, we’re still awaiting an explanation.