0417 McGinnitie @ Rotary.jpg

Georgia Commissioner of Revenue Doug MacGinnitie, right, shakes hands with Sam Watson following the meeting of the Moultrie Rotary Club on Tuesday. Watson, husband of Rotary President Emily Watson, has announced plans to run for the state House of Representatives later this year.

Identity thieves don’t just hit average Joes. Last year, they filed a fraudulent tax return using the personal information of the wife of Georgia’s revenue commissioner.

Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie referred to his wife’s experience during a presentation to the Moultrie Rotary Club Tuesday and used it to explain a new process at the department. All state returns are now run through a database, he said. If a 2011 return shows discrepancies when compared with the previous year’s return — for instance, a new address — the tax payer may be contacted for more information.

The hope is to catch the people who are trying to defraud the state and deprive residents of legitimate refunds.

“It’s no different from somebody taking a gun and taking money from the state treasury,” MacGinnitie said.

Last year, the state Department of Revenue blocked $75 million in fraudulent returns. Already, it’s blocked $100 million worth this year, and he said nobody believes they caught it all.

The problem is a familiar one in Colquitt County, where dozens of residents have filed police reports about fraudulent returns using their personal information since the beginning of the year.

In his address to the Moultrie Rotarians, MacGinnitie also described the various functions of the Department of Revenue:

• The department collects 98 percent of the taxes collected in Georgia, totaling $20 billion. About $4 billion of that is returned to local governments, while the state uses the remainder.

• The department regulates alcohol and tobacco. Once upon a time its main effort was busting up moonshine stills. Now it’s more concerned with ensuring taxes are paid on the sale of alcohol.

• The department also keeps up with motor vehicle information: tag, title and insurance.

• The department is the repository for unclaimed property. Some $100 million per year is turned over to the state, and about 30 to 40 percent of that eventually finds its rightful owners. If you think the state may have a bank account, life insurance policy, etc., in your name, visit the website at etax.dor.ga.gov and click the “Search for Unclaimed Property” link on the left.

 

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