SPRINGFIELD | Illinois could become a tougher place to be sneaky about your taxes under Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal.
The governor’s plan calls for hiring 75 additional auditors at the Illinois Department of Revenue who would track down tax cheats and squeeze them for what they owe.
The call for more bodies on the front lines of the state’s main tax collection agency comes at a time when Quinn also is threatening to cut funding for schools, universities and other state programs.
But, Revenue officials say the state will actually collect more in lost taxes than it will cost to have the additional workers on board.
“We certainly know there is a funding problem in Illinois,” said Revenue spokeswoman Sue Hofer. “But, every auditor we hire finds $8 in taxes for every $1 they earn.”
The state currently has 491 employees working in the auditing division, including 118 who are based in other states. Auditors investigate and identify unpaid taxes, ranging from yachts owned by Illinoisans but registered in other states to convenience store owners who don’t accurately report gasoline sales taxes.
“The auditors are the ones who keep everyone honest,” said Hofer.
In all, Quinn’s budget calls for hiring an estimated 3,000 employees in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
That won’t, however, necessarily boost the total number of state employees because of an ongoing loss of workers to retirement and normal attrition.
The Department of Revenue faces the loss of 77 auditors and 23 supervisors to retirement on June 30, meaning the hiring in the new budget may only keep the current workforce at its current level.
But, Hofer said, unless new auditors are trained, the state will lose substantial tax revenue.
“We don’t want a year where we don’t have enough,” Hofer said.
Other agencies seeking funds to hire more employees include the Department of Corrections, the Illinois State Police, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Natural Resources.
At Revenue, officials are telling lawmakers that other states devote substantially more to their tax audit systems.
New York, for example, has an estimated 1,640 auditors. New Jersey, which is slightly smaller than Illinois in population has 520 auditors, the department notes.
“This staff increase would bring audit staff closer to parity with other states,” an agency fact sheet notes.