Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor
Saturday, 23 March 2013 08:29
Being Bowling Green's tax commissioner isn't as simple as making sure the city's residents and businesses meet their tax obligations.
|Rob Wright is Bowling Green’s tax commissioner. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
For Rob Wright it also means being aware of proposed changes at the state level to standardize municipal tax forms, possibly requiring state collection and potentially reducing the amount of revenue that stays local.
Proposals before the legislature in 2012 died with the end of the session, but a new bill has been introduced in the Ohio House. "Nothing much is moving with it now because the House Ways and Means Committee has its hands full with the (state) budget. There was a hearing in February but no second hearing has been scheduled," Wright said.
He is president of the Northwest Ohio Tax Commissioners Association. Bowling Green hosted a meeting of the group last year.
BG City Council members became concerned about the 2012 bill because one of the key proposals was to allow the state to collect local income taxes and then send the money back to municipalities. The state auditor's office would be allowed to charge a collection fee. There were also concerns expressed that the state might find a way to keep an additional amount of the money for its own use.
Proponents see the bill as a way to have a statewide municipal tax form and make doing business in Ohio easier. The changes have the support of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. The latest bill has 129 pages.
Wright said the city's cost of collection in 2012 was 2.1 percent of the nearly $16 million in income tax revenue. He said some municipalities collect their own taxes, while others in Ohio use the Regional Income Tax Agency or the Central Collection Agency, which each charge 3 percent for collection.
Ohio school district income taxes are collected by the state and sent back to the schools. The fee is 1.5 percent.
"It has been a difficult thing to get a handle on," City Finance Director Brian Bushong said. "Bowling Green would not be as affected as some of the other towns, but the issues are still out there and are not going to go away. Rob is very good at keeping up with what is going on. He has worked in that Columbus environment. He understands what goes on there," Bushong said.
A proposal to allow S-corporations to carry a net operating loss forward for five years in the 2012 bill was not popular with many cities, Wright said, although Bowling Green has had that as part of its tax code for about 10 years. The latest version of the bill allows the option of carrying the loss for zero, one, three or five years.
The five-year rule cost Bowling Green an estimated $100,000 of revenue in both 2010 and 2011, Wright said. The figures reflect the lingering effects of the recession.
Wright said another proposal regarding unreimbursed business expenses might mean an extra $5,000 to $10,000 annually for BG.
Because Bowling Green is not a "mandatory filing city" most residents have no contact with the income tax office as long as their BG employer withholds the city tax and they have no other income, such as from a business or rental property.
"I think we have good compliance in Bowling Green," Wright said.
The city mails about 5,000 blank forms and in 2012 the staff posted 13,750 returns.
"The staff and I help people prepare returns. It's usually pretty quick. We know nobody likes to pay taxes," Wright said.
He came to Bowling Green 2 1/2 years ago from Granville, a village in Licking County, and earlier spent 16 years working for the Ohio Department of Aging, working on budgets and cost projections.
The city office is not set up to accept electronic returns, but that may change for future tax seasons.
"If someone using Turbotax is prompted to file a city return, don't use it," Wright said. "It sends it to Cleveland and it is not filed with us."
The deadline for city taxes is April 15.