Doug MacGinnitie, Department of Revenue commissioner, told members of the Dougherty County Rotary Thursday that a new specialized computer system is detecting many fraudulent tax filers which may not have been detected before.
ALBANY -- Georgia Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie says his department is working to improve its efficiency is collecting taxes owed to the state, but also in the service it provides to Georgians.
In 2010, MacGinnitie said, the average wait time to speak with a state Revenue Department representative was 50 minutes.
"We're doing much better now," he told members of the Dougherty County Rotary Club on Tuesday, "but we should be doing as well as the private sector, and that means single-digit waits of around 5-7 minutes average."
A new computer system for the department has been working "pretty good" to "really good," MacGinnitie said, and is getting better and better at blocking fraudulent returns.
The commissioner, a Sandy Springs resident who was appointed commissioner in January 2011 by Gov. Nathan Deal, said a serious problem of identity theft exists. Criminals buy names and information on the Internet and file fraudulent returns to receive refunds. The system blocked more than $80 million in payouts on bogus returns last year, he said.
Anyone can be victimized in that type of scheme, he noted. "It happened to my wife," MacGinnitie said. "If it happened to her it can happen to you or anyone."
He also suggested that those who don't do it already file their tax returns electronically. MacGinnitie said electronic filing can return a refund in a week to 10 days, compared to up to two months for paper filings.
In explaining what his department does, MacGinnitie told Rotarians his agency has three functions -- to administer state taxes; to administer and regulate alcohol and tobacco, and to serve as a repository for all unclaimed property in the state. Most of such property is in the form of funds in cases where financial institutions have lost contact with the owners, MacGinnitie said, although occasionally the property can be drugs, guns or something else. MacGinnitie said that more than $100 million in misplaced property has been given to the department for it to locate the owners.
MacGinnitie said the state's two primary sources of revenue come from income taxes on individuals and businesses and from sales and use taxes imposed on the purchase of merchandise.
Currently, he said, income taxes account for 43 percent of all state revenues, but more legislators are considering reforming Georgia's tax revenue mix toward collecting more from sales taxes while lowering tax rates on personal and business income.
"Like it or not, that's the way it seems to be going," MacGinnitie said, "The agency doesn't make policy. We're just administrators."
MacGinnitie said that revenue to the state peaked at a little less than $18 billion in 2008, then dropped by about 20 percent. It is recovering slowly, he said, adding he doesn't see a full recovery of Georgia revenue "anytime soon."