By Bob Katzen
The State Auditor Suzanne Bump has certified that the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) figures are correct and Massachusetts must return $2.9 billion to taxpayers based on Chapter 62F, a 1986 law approved by the voters. That law requires that tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. Bump has determined that the net state tax revenues of $41,812,654,358 for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022 is $2,941,499,731 above the allowable state tax revenues of $38,871,154,627.
“Our review requires us to do more than check DOR’s math,” said Bump. “As has been done each year of my tenure, we apply generally accepted government auditing standards in our review to verify the accuracy and completeness of the report provided by DOR. This provides us with reasonable assurance required by those standards that DOR’s figures are correct.”
“Stronger-than expected state tax revenues have led to a major surplus for fiscal year 2022, and we are pleased to be able to return nearly $3 billion in excess revenue to the taxpayers,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “With families facing continued pressure from high prices and inflation, these returns will provide some needed relief. Even with nearly $3 billion going back to taxpayers, significant state and federal resources remain, and we look forward to working with the Legislature to invest this funding into our economy, communities and families.”
According to the Baker Administration, the $2.9 billion will be returned to eligible taxpayers by the DOR in proportion to personal income tax liability in Massachusetts incurred by taxpayers in 2021. “Eligible taxpayers will receive a credit in the form of a refund that is approximately 13 percent of their 2021 personal income tax liability,” said a statement released by the Office of Administration and Finance. “This percentage is a preliminary estimate and will be finalized in late October, after all 2021 tax returns are filed. To be eligible, individuals must have filed a 2021 state tax return on or before October 17, 2022. An individual’s credit may be reduced due to refund intercepts, including for unpaid taxes, unpaid child support and certain other debts.
“That our tax cap has been dormant for over three decades until today shows that it is working exactly as it was designed to do,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation which sponsored the 1986 ballot question. “Our tax cap was intended as an automatic release valve for when revenue surpluses reach an unnecessary level, especially such an extraordinary level as recently. It was meant as a check on unlimited taxation and unsustainable spending.”
“It’s unfortunate that our late-executive director Barbara Anderson, who worked so hard for adoption of our 1986 ballot question (and so many other tax reforms) is no longer with us to celebrate this success she achieved for all taxpayers of Massachusetts,” continued Ford, “But I’m confident she’s up there joining us joyfully in spirit.”
“This is a tremendous victory for all taxpayers of the commonwealth,” said Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “We were fully prepared to bring the auditor to the Supreme Judicial Court to enforce this certification and are even more thrilled that they’ve made this certification ahead of the September 20 deadline.”
“The 1986 law was regressive when it passed before I was born, and it is regressive today,” said Jonathan Cohn, the policy director at the group Progressive Massachusetts. “It is incumbent upon the Legislature to ensure that the implementation of such a law does not make inequality in our state worse, as it undoubtedly will if it is used to disproportionately benefit the highest-income residents—those who bear the impact of inflation and economic turbulence of any kind the least—as Gov. Baker proposes.”
“I support the idea to deliver $2.9 billion in relief checks to taxpayers this fall,” said Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge). “However, Chapter 62F would send the largest checks to the state’s top income earners, while those most impacted by inflation would get the smallest checks. That’s not just inequitable, it’s also bad economic policy. Moreover, 62F only authorizes tax credits for next year, not checks this fall. That’s why I am calling on legislative leaders to return to formal session as soon as possible to adjust the 62F distribution formula so that middle-income residents and the working poor are prioritized, as they are the ones who are being most crushed by inflation. At the same time, I think the legislature should take action to legally authorize the distribution of these checks this fall. Otherwise, Gov. Baker’s rebate scheme could get tied up in the courts.