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Boston — State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today testified before the Joint Committee on Revenue, asking state lawmakers to support legislation which will allow her office to adequately review the Department of Revenue (DOR) and its oversight of business tax breaks.
“It is [currently] impossible for my office to effectively audit oversight of tax expenditures by any agency, including DOR, to ensure the existence and adequacy of controls to prevent waste, fraud, or abuse,” said Auditor Bump.
Since 2011 Auditor Bump has been examining the state’s systems of tax expenditures. An initial report found little oversight, accountability, transparency, or performance evaluation for more than $2.2 billion in business-related revenue forgone on an annual basis through various tax breaks. The next phase of the review was to be an audit of how state agencies administered their tax incentive programs, but auditors were unable to complete their report because state law restricts their access to business tax returns. Such information would allow auditors to test if tax breaks given to businesses are truly deserved or if transferable tax credits are properly traded.
In her testimony, Auditor Bump said access to business tax returns is in alignment with recommendations set by the legislatively created Tax Expenditure Commission and that 36 other states grant their state audit function access to tax return information.
The bill proposed by Auditor Bump would only allow her office access to tax return information that is necessary to audit tax expenditures, and particular information from the specific returns would not become public record.
The Office of the State Auditor conducts technical and performance assessments of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency.