Friday, May 20, 2011

Speedier Tax Refunds Bill On Fallin's Desk

A bill designed to facilitate faster payment of tax refunds also includes protections to ensure that no Oklahoma citizen’s identity can be stolen, Rep. David Dank said as the bill went to Governor Fallin's desk.

“This legislation will make it easier for many Oklahomans to receive their tax refund in a timely fashion, and it does nothing that would facilitate identify theft, contrary to the claims of some alarmists,” said Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “The provision providing for card-based disbursement is pro-taxpayer, pure and simple.”

Senate Bill 123, by Senator Mike Mazzei and Dank, provides for a card-based disbursement system in lieu of income tax refund checks.

Dank noted that the Tax Commission will not contract with any third-party vendor to administer its direct-deposit system. Instead, that process will be handled through the state Treasurer’s Office, as it always has been.

Third-party vendors would be used only for administering the card-based disbursement system. That contract will be similar to card-based disbursement contracts already utilized by other state agencies, including the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

The only information that would be provided to the third-party vendor in that situation is a name, address and amount of refund. A partial Social Security number may be used if necessary.

Existing state law already provides for the confidentiality of information contained in the files of the Tax Commission, and those protections would extend to any entity doing contract work for the agency.

“There are privacy safeguards in current law that will remain in place for the card-based disbursement system,” Dank said. “Citizens will not face any increased chance of identity theft.”

Under the bill, taxpayers who do not wish to receive a debit card can opt for a direct deposit instead.

Dank said the debit card proposal is designed to benefit low-income Oklahomans.

“Many lower-income people who do not have checking accounts will be able to access their cards at most if not all ATMs at no charge,” Dank said. “And they will not have to pay check cashing fees to get their refund.

Senate Bill 123 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 78-18 vote and now goes to Governor Fallin for action.

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