Lowell Sun: Bump wants access to business tax returns to audit credits
November 19, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Lowell Sun.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump is requesting the power to access confidential corporate tax returns, records she said would allow her office to determine whether tax incentives given by the state are an efficient and effective use of government resources.
"We have to look at business tax returns to see if the Department of Revenue is actually auditing according to how they say they are," Bump said. "We wanted to be able to say, 'Is what you're doing good enough? Are you missing areas where there could be potential for fraud, or is this actually benefiting us? Is this actually benefiting the group of businesses or the people that you want to see employed? What is the impact of it?' "
During a meeting with The Sun's editorial board Monday, Bump said that of the 41 states that require the filing of tax returns, 36 specifically authorize the state auditor to review them.
She filed legislation requesting that authority earlier this year, more than two years after an audit of business-related tax credits and other expenditures found little oversight, accountability or transparency.
Bump said her office then set out to audit the administration of tax-incentive programs but could not do so without being able to analyze and confirm the data contained in businesses' tax returns.
While the state budget is scrutinized by "thousands of eyes" each year, many tax credits are "never looked at again," though tax policy and the budget have equal impact on government revenue, Bump said.
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Cape Cod Times: Bump hits a speed bump
November 15, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Cape Cod Times.
Late last week, state Auditor Suzanne Bump met with our editorial board to promote legislation that would help her office review the effectiveness of corporate tax breaks.
Bump said her office is currently unable to audit the state's oversight of tax breaks because it is prohibited from accessing corporate tax returns. Without a change in the law, Bump is unable to determine if the more than $2 billion worth of tax breaks, which were granted for purposes ranging from job creation to promoting green technology, are working. Bump said 36 other states give their auditors the power to review tax returns.
Unfortunately, several business leaders oppose the bill, arguing that the auditor could possibly make public sensitive information contained in corporate tax returns. Bump recently told the Associated Press that the purpose of her review would be only to assess whether the tax breaks were good public policy, and not to target any individual companies.
The state Legislature should approve the bill.
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New Bedford Standard Times: Let the state auditor police the TIFs
Berkshire Eagle Editorial: Zeroing in on tax breaks
November 5, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Berkshire Eagle.
Massachusetts wisely uses tax breaks to encourage business and industry to come here and thrive here, but the flip side is taxpayers require assurances that these breaks are merited and used properly. A good way to do this would be for the state auditor's office to review Department of Revenue documents to see if the department is enforcing them adequately. The auditor does not currently have this power, but the Legislature should pass the bill needed to provide it.
In a recent interview at The Eagle, auditor Suzanne Bump said that $2.2 billion in businesses expenditures are not subject to auditing, which means in her words "there is no measure of success." The state and its taxpayers don't know if the expenditures are reported in detail, if there is a sunset provision allowing them to lapse, or if there are clawback provisions enabling tax breaks to be withdrawn and money repaid if the recipient doesn't deliver on jobs or other economic benefits...
...If businesses want tax breaks then they are obligated to show the public that what they are doing in exchange for the tax breaks is of genuine public benefit. Businesses opposed to this concept don't have to apply for tax breaks. The legislation advocated by Ms. Bump is reasonable and overdue, and the Legislature should make it law in the months ahead.