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Auditor’s turn for tax error

State sent counties wrong amounts

– The state auditor’s office sent erroneous excise tax distributions to Indiana counties last week, a clerical mistake that is being corrected, officials said Thursday.

Excise taxes are collected by the state when Hoosiers register their vehicles. Then the state auditor distributes a portion of the money monthly to counties depending on where the people live. Counties then send it along to local units of government.

Erin Sheridan, spokeswoman for State Auditor Tim Berry, said about $19.7 million is dispersed every month.

But in the March distribution, a state employee accidentally used the individual county amounts from the prior month.

More than 30 counties were underpaid a total of $536,000.

Allen County, for instance, received $987,853 for its March distribution, about $18,491 less than it should have received.

The error comes on the heels of two much larger fiscal mistakes made by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration. The Indiana Department of Revenue found $320 million in corporate tax collections in December that was sitting in a holding account. Then several weeks ago, the same department announced it had incorrectly held $206 million in local income tax revenue that belonged to local units of government.

The latest error was found within the separately elected state auditor’s office, which has the task of distributing dollars and paying the state’s bills.

That office last week sent a letter notifying county officials of the error and requiring those counties it overpaid to cut the state a check. It also said the state would pay those counties that did not receive enough money once all the overpayments had been received.

But Sheridan said Thursday the auditor is seeking an override from the State Budget Agency to be allowed to immediately pay all the money to counties that did not receive its full distribution.

“It’s a regrettable but correctable error,” she said.

Sheridan said counties send the money to local units twice a year, in June and December, so the mistake isn’t causing a hardship.

But Allen County Chief Deputy Auditor Nick Jordan said local units were scheduled to get an advance today on that money.

But he said the April advance doesn’t include the March money, so the units will not be affected.

He said it was the first excise tax error he has seen during his time in office of more than a year.