Sometimes you can't win for lousing.
In years past, the Oklahoma Tax Commission came under fire for failing to get income tax refunds out on a timely basis. Now the agency is in the crosshairs for supposedly lousing up an alternative plan for issuing refunds.
This time, the fault — if any is to be found — lies with the Legislature for stipulating that refunds would no longer be issued by check but instead direct-deposited or placed on a debit card.
The plan saves more than $500,000, something that the taxpayers getting the refunds should applaud. But some taxpayers who asked for direct deposit got the debit card instead and others have complained that the cards carry punitive fees.
A third-party vendor, chosen by competitive bidding, was selected for the debit cards. For a modest fee, those who get the card can cash it in at some banks. Those who don't may incur hefty fees for keeping a balance on the cards.
Delays in issuing refunds were a function of too few tax commission workers handling returns each spring. It's been years since we've heard complaints about excessive delays, but this year we've heard plenty of complaints about the alternative system. The governor's office has been hearing those complaints as well.
This could be a case of working the bugs out of a new system, or the problem may be more complicated than that. Since most taxpayers have a checking account, the best advice is to go the direct deposit route and avoid the debit cards — and any fees that go with them.
In any case, the tax commission isn't to blame for most of the problems with the new system. Government is steadily moving away from checks and toward debit cards for welfare benefits, unemployment compensation and now tax refunds.