Cleveland.com Editorial Board Calls Out Robert Sprague for Potential “Systemic Failure”

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, the Cleveland.com Editorial Board today called on Treasurer Robert Sprague to address allegations of improper record keeping when it comes to state taxes. Two Akron-area taxpayers and their lawyer at Akron’s Community Legal Aid Services uncovered what could be a “systemic failure” by Sprague’s office. The recent lawsuit raises questions about whether Sprague’s office has been failing to keep proper tax records and failing to track how much money is being withheld from Ohioans’ for tax purposes. The editorial points to the potential headaches that creates for Ohioans – from double taxation to failing to provide refunds for Ohioans who make overpayments.

“If the assertions in this lawsuit are true and Ohio is failing to track individual tax withholding amounts on its own, the problems could go beyond low-income taxpayers whose W-2 forms were destroyed or lost. How can the state possibly determine whether taxpayers are paying the right amount of taxes if it doesn’t track how much was actually withheld,” writes the Cleveland.com Editorial Board.

At a time when far too many Ohioans are worried about making ends meet, the failure of the Treasurer’s office to do its job and serve as a watchdog and responsible steward for Ohioans’ tax dollars is unacceptable. It’s clear Ohioans can’t afford four more years of Robert Sprague overseeing their hard-earned money. 

Read more from Cleveland.com HERE and below:

  • All Ohioans may owe a big debt to two Akron-area taxpayers and their lawyer at Akron’s Community Legal Aid Services for uncovering what appears to be a major failing in the state’s tax-withholding recordkeeping.

  • Last August, James Palm of Akron and Sara Pearson of Ravenna, two taxpayers who had been trying to come current on their taxes, filed a lawsuit against Ohio Tax Commissioner Jeff McClain and State Treasurer Robert Sprague.

  • Their lawsuit alleged that the state’s lack of proper recordkeeping, as required by Ohio law, of employer withholding amounts had thwarted their efforts to determine their actual Ohio tax liability in lieu of W-2s that were missing, inaccessible or destroyed. And they charged that, instead of the state properly crediting them for their actual payments, they were double-taxed and are now owed refunds in the scores and maybe hundreds of dollars.

  • What’s more, the lawsuit, filed by Community Legal Aid lawyer Dana Goldstein, alleged a “systemic failure” by Ohio to properly credit withholding to individual taxpayers as required by a 2007 law, and a related failure to automatically refund overpaid taxes. That impacts all Ohio taxpayers, potentially.

  • What’s most egregious in these taxpayers’ experiences is that they were trying to pay back taxes that they owed. Yet, the lawsuit charges, they were not just foiled in their honest efforts — but then wrongly overcharged, instead.

  • The 144-page lawsuit goes beyond Palm and Pearson’s experiences, however. It calls for a remedy that addresses the systemic issues it alleges have had “a disparate impact on low-income individuals.

  • The lawsuit, filed directly to the Ohio Supreme Court, was referred to mediation when first filed, cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer reported last August.

  • Evidently, mediation was unsuccessful. So last Tuesday, May 3, a writ of mandamus signed by Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor restored the case to the high court’s docket and ordered Tax Commissioner McClain and State Treasurer Sprague to respond to the allegations within 21 days.

  • If the assertions in this lawsuit are true and Ohio is failing to track individual tax withholding amounts on its own, the problems could go beyond low-income taxpayers whose W-2 forms were destroyed or lost. How can the state possibly determine whether taxpayers are paying the right amount of taxes if it doesn’t track how much was actually withheld?

  • And if Ohio really is not keeping these records as required by fairness and the law, it needs to start doing so, forthwith.

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