Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
This week I want to highlight another state agency so that you know more about how state government works for you. The Department of Revenue is responsible for collecting the tax revenue that funds much of the operational costs of state government.
The department is led by Tax Commissioner Doug Ewald. His private sector background has been instrumental in streamlining this agency. He has worked with department leaders to emphasize the ease and added security of electronic payments and opportunities to e-file tax statements.
Individual and family income taxes can be e-filed free of charge. Businesses and other organizations are encouraged to use electronic fund transfers (EFTs) to pay taxes and fees. Last year, the department processed approximately 1 million electronically-filed tax returns and payments totaling $3.3 billion. The number of EFTs increased 17 percent between 2007 and 2008.
Nebraska is among the top e-filing states in the nation. For tax year 2008, 71 percent of taxpayers filed their returns electronically. This helps the department control costs with fewer seasonal workers needed to process tax returns, in addition to offering added speed and security in processing refunds.
With nearly 415 full-time employees across the state, it is one of the larger state agencies. The Department of Revenue is made up of six divisions, including; property assessment, policy, compliance, operations and administrative services, lottery and charitable gaming, and motor fuels.
The Property Assessment Division oversees the homestead exemption program in Nebraska; certifies the adjusted valuation for schools, which is used in calculating state-aid for school districts; values state-assessed property; and works with county officials to ensure uniform and proportionate assessments for property throughout the state.
The Policy Division includes researchers responsible for preparing revenue and tax receipt information each month and at the end of the fiscal year. They also develop information used by the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board to project state revenues.
The policy team is also responsible for designing and updating more than 900 tax forms and publications state taxes and incentive programs issued by the department. They also reach out to help taxpayers and tax professionals better understand these programs. Education seminars held recently in seven communities across the state attracted 650 taxpayers and tax practitioners.
The Operations and Administrative Services Division processes all tax returns and refunds, manages the department’s seven offices and assists taxpayers. Each year, these professionals work with 270,000 taxpayers to help them submit their state tax returns and answer questions about state tax programs. Questions are answered either in the office, over the phone, by written letter, or via e-mail.
An important function in collecting taxes is ensuring that taxpayers comply with all laws. The Compliance Division is responsible for auditing companies of all sizes that do business in the state to ensure proper reporting and payment of state taxes. Within this division, there is a team that works with businesses to administer tax incentive programs and to ensure that companies fulfill all obligations for receiving tax credits. In addition, the division works to maintain a level playing field for all taxpayers by working to collect back taxes.
The Motor Fuels Division collects fuel taxes from gasoline, diesel and jet fuel retailers in the state. While the Department of Revenue’s most visible role relates to taxes, the Lottery and Charitable Gaming Division works to license and oversee all charitable gaming by nonprofit organizations and keno retailers in the state. It also operates the Nebraska Lottery, whose proceeds benefit environmental and education programs, the Nebraska State Fair, and gambling assistance efforts in the state.
The Department of Revenue, available online at www.revenue.ne.gov, works with Nebraskans to provide the services that help ensure the integrity of our revenue system, while also providing more efficient and secure options that help individuals and companies do business within the state.