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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

On the web: State may have something valuable for you

OLYMPIA – Odds are that you or someone you know has money waiting at the state Department of Revenue, just a few computer key strokes away.

The department’s main job is taking in money from Washington residents and businesses. But every so often, it reminds people of its efforts to send money out. It’s unclaimed property program has some $1 billion in cash, securities and other things waiting for their rightful owner to step up, fill out the proper forms and get what’s coming to him or her.

That might be a rebate check for a few bucks that never found its way to your mail box.

But it could be much, much bigger, like some $2.2 million in stocks and unclaimed dividend checks a Puget Sound resident was able to claim in the last year. Erin Lopez, the unclaimed property operations manager, said the man’s parents apparently bought the stocks when he was a child but the securities firm lost track of them when they moved and dividend checks started getting returned. Eventually everything went to the state for safe keeping under a law passed in 1956 which requires the state to hold assets forever in a person’s name. . . 

To read the rest of this item or get links to unclaimed property websites in Washington and all the states, click here to continue inside the blog.


We’re No. 36…on one tax list

OLYMPIA — Washington state are about two-thirds of the way down the list when one considers how much of their income they pay for state and local taxes.

This according to the folks in charge of collecting the taxes, so they should know, right.

The state Department of Revenue said Washington residents paid $96.08 in state and local taxes on every $1,000 of income. That puts them at No. 36 on a list of taxes to income.

That puts them ahead of Idaho, which is ranked 45th with $89.98 per $1,000, and just behind No. 35, Oregon, which is at $96.88.

No. 1 is New York, where residents pay $204.12 per $1,000; No. 50 is South Dakota at $83.72.

Want more tax facts and figures? Click here to read the full report.

Safe deposit ‘treasures’ go on the block

OLYMPIA – Nearly 3,000 items that someone locked away for safekeeping and either forgot about, or forgot to tell anyone else about,  will be auctioned off this week for the state Department of Revenue.
From gold coins and jewelry to baseball cards and arrowheads, items valued by someone were found in safe deposit boxes whose owners have either died or moved, and the bank couldn’t track down. The banks turned the contents over to the department, which spent more time trying to find the owner before placing them in the latest “Lost Treasures” Auction Wednesday and Thursday.
The catalog for the auction reads a bit like the lineup for an upcoming episode of “Antiques Roadshow”: An autographed Michael Jordan baseball. A 1846 U.S. Navy powder flask. A carved Ivory cribbage board. A Dick Tracy pocket knife. A First-Day Issue envelope and stamp for the 1946 “Operation Crossroads” atomic bomb test on the Bikini Atoll.
“Anything that fits in a box that people think is important,” Patti Wilson, the department’s unclaimed property operations manager, said Monday….
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

To see an online catalog of items in the Lost Treasures Auction,click here.

To search the Department of Revenue’s database of unclaimed property, click here.

Tax amnesty funds coming. How much is the question

OLYMPIA – Local governments should see a jump in tax revenue in mid May as the state funnels some $57 million from a recent tax amnesty to them, but the exact amount each city and county will see from the program won’t be known for weeks.
A state Department of Revenue spokesman said the increase in revenue from businesses that didn’t pay their sales and use taxes could be roughly equal to each area’s share of the state’s economy. The city of Spokane represents about 3.7 percent of the economy in the state’s most recent figures, and all of Spokane County about 6.8 percent, Mike Gowrylow said.
Using that yardstick, the city could see an extra $2.1 million and all governments around the county a total of $3.9 million. But that assumes businesses that avoided or underpaid taxes until the amnesty was offered are equally distributed throughout the state, and they probably aren’t, Gowrylow said.
“Some communities are going to see bigger bumps. It depends on where the business was located,” he said.

To read the initial report on money from the tax amnesty program, click here.

To read Sunday's column on the tax amnesty program, click here.

An amnesty for tax deadbeats?

OLYMPIA – Business organizations regularly bemoan how little recognition, respect and support they get from the state. But evidence to the contrary was clear last week, when the state announced a “windfall” of some $321 million from a tax amnesty program.
It showed that when there’s something fishy about what they’ve been doing, businesses get the benefit of the doubt that poor people don’t.
Cheers for the money were second only to Mariner’s improving win-loss record, and with good reason. The state originally thought it might pick up about $24 million by offering businesses a chance to clear up their tax debts without penalties or interest. It got $321 million – $264 million of which the state keeps after sending local governments their share – which is real money in anyone’s book. It offers the Legislature, in the words of Gov. Chris Gregoire, a chance to balance the state’s biennial budget and “go home.”
No one seemed concerned, however, about the reason for the unexpected bonanza….

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Washington says retailers’ tax site improved

Washington's Department of Revenue said in a news release Monday that it has vastly improved the online tool retailers use to find sales tax rates across the state.

The state charges sales tax based on where a product is delivered, not where it originated. The new web tool, found at http://dor.wa.gov, offers several ways to look up location codes and tax rates. Those include address searches, improved maps, and latitude and longitude, according to the news release.

Washington retailers, you be the judge.

DelBene new state Revenue Director

OLYMPIA — Suzan DelBene, an unsuccessful congressional candidate in this year’s election, was named today as the new director of the state Department of Revenue.

DelBene takes over the state’s tax-collecting agency at a time when Washington is facing revenue shortfalls for at least the next 30 months. Gov. Chris Gregoire said she’ll be leading the department as it seeks to simplify the state tax code for businesses and collect money from companies that aren’t paying their taxes.

To handle the latter assignment, the state will be hiring more auditors and tax examiners, contacting businesses in and out of state that are not paying taxes. Gregoire will also ask the Legislature to approve a four-month tax amnesty which would allow businesses to pay delinquent taxes in full, without penalty or interest between Feb. 1 and May 31. 

The state could see an extra $44 million, and local governments a total of $6 million, from those efforts, Gregoire said.

DelBene is a former Microsoft executive who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in suburban King County’s 8th Congressional District. She lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Dave Reichert.