The state of Missouri owes certain taxpayers an estimated $3 million in tax refunds currently hidden from public view, according to findings of a Missouri Department of Revenue audit released recently.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office reviewed the department’s procedures for tax refund checks that are mailed out but not cashed. The audit found that when checks are returned to the department, information is added to its Returned Refund Checks web page, which taxpayers can search for past due refund amounts.

After one year, the check is voided, and the information is removed from the department’s website and forwarded to the state treasurer’s office.

After two more years pass, and the treasurer’s office can’t find the person to whom the money is owed, it’s turned over to the state’s unclaimed property rolls, where citizens can again search for it.

Galloway says the problem lies in those two years where taxpayers can’t readily search for the money owed to them online, calling it a “tax transparency gap.”

“Regardless of the reason a tax refund check is not cashed, whether it’s due to a move, a wrong address in the system, or lost or stolen mail, these circumstances do not change the fact that this money belongs to the taxpayer,” Galloway said.

The audit examined the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, and found that in that time frame, 6,000 undelivered checks – amounting to nearly $1.3 million – were listed on the Missouri Department of Revenue’s website. In the same time period, nearly $4.5 million in 30,000 uncashed refunds were turned over to the state treasurer.

The audit recommended that the department find a way to ensure taxpayers can search for undelivered checks at any point in the process – publicizing them, the audit found, would make it far more likely the checks could be claimed and allow the state to be more transparent about the checks it’s holding.

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