Close to 100,000 state tax mailings a year end up in trash

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Division of Taxation mailed tax payment packets to about 130,000 businesses a year from 2014 to 2015, but about 75 percent of those businesses paid their taxes electronically, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

That calculates to about 100,000 of the multi-page mailings going unused, with only about a quarter of the state’s businesses using the paperwork to mail their taxes to Smith Hill.

No one from the Rhode Island Department of Revenue would answer questions directly about why the postal process continues while private sector businesses and other states are trying to move toward paperless transactions.

DOR spokesperson Paul Grimaldi said the mailings serve other purposes, including alerting businesses to regulation changes. And he said in some cases businesses need the mailings if they convert from digital filings back to mailing in their payments.

“While the majority of businesses file their responses in a digital format, nearly a quarter continue to do so on paper,” Grimaldi said. “The division sends quarterly payroll tax notices by traditional mail to ensure that all businesses are aware of their tax obligations.”

Grimaldi forwarded two years of statistics to Target 12 that indicate mail-in payments declined during this short period of time. In the first quarter of 2014, 29 percent of the state’s businesses filed by mail, with the rest filing digitally.

But by the fourth quarter of 2015, 27 percent filed by mail.

Grimaldi did not provide a cost of the mailings for those two years, but did say the postage for the first two quarters of fiscal 2016 was $4,099.

When asked why that total didn’t seem to mesh with the 41 cent stamp on the mailing envelopes, Grimaldi wrote in an email, “That’s all I have on costs associated with the quarterly mailings,” referring again to the $4,099 figure.

He did not provide a price tag for what taxpayers spend on paper and envelopes for the mailings.

Across the border, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website includes a ‘go paperless link.’

The narrative in that section of the site states in part, “You will save taxpayer money by forgoing printing and postage costs of paper mailings. And it’s good for the environment!”

Grimaldi said the DOR is always looking for ways to save taxpayers’ time and money, and is currently enhancing technology to improve the online systems for businesses and individuals.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau

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