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The state tax department is disbanding its six-member criminal investigative unit.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The amount of money generated by members of the state tax department's criminal investigative unit varied from year to year. The number of friends they made never changed: zero.
We can't say that their unpopularity led state officials to disband the group. The closure will save the commonwealth $120,000 a year. Tax officials say revenue from court-ordered restitution averaged less than $100,000 per year.
The unit is a small cog in the department's compliance division, which collected nearly $465 million in 2009, the most recent data available. In that same year, the General Assembly approved a plan that added 55 auditors, examiners, collectors and other staff to the agency, bringing the total compliance staff to 311.
The six-member criminal unit was charged with assisting local prosecutors in tax fraud investigations. State officials say they are simply reorganizing to improve efficiency. Four of the six investigators will shift to other jobs focused on data analysis and prevention of fraudulent refunds. That may be a better use of their time, but the shuffle will shrink the compliance staff by two.
The timing of the announcement is ironic, arriving in the midst of a controversy over favors doled out to Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by the CEO of a company suing the state to challenge unpaid tax bills. Cuccinelli's office has hired an outside law firm to handle the case.
There's no evidence that Jonnie Williams had any brush with the investigative unit at issue here. Tax officials said they cannot comment on the case. But we doubt that he or other wealthy campaign donors have ever bent the ear of a friendly politician to lobby in favor of more tax auditors and fraud investigators.
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