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Sign On San Diego - The San Diego Union Tribune
February 25, 2010

County issuing tax refunds

By Jeff McDonald

The 2,000 checks come three weeks after a critical audit

Three weeks after the release of a scathing audit that criticized his office for withholding millions of dollars in refunds due taxpayers, county Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister announced today that more than 2,000 refund checks are being mailed out this week.

The county is returning just over $800,000 to taxpayers who moved since buying or selling property or were otherwise previously unable to be located, McAllister said.

"Our goal is to give back the money that is owed to taxpayers," he said in a news release. "If you have moved from the property listed on county records, please update your information with the Assessor's Office as soon as possible to avoid delays in delivery."

According to an independent audit completed in March but not released until The San Diego Union-Tribune requested the document under the California Public Records Act, the Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office failed to return almost $8 million in overpaid taxes to property owners.

Not only that, the auditors found records were deleted or altered without explanation and the office computer system lacked appropriate security measures to prevent fraud or tampering.

The report, produced by the New York forensic auditing firm Kessler International at a cost to taxpayers of $73,000, was one in a series of outside reviews of the county tax office in the past five years that reached similar conclusions. McAllister has said several times in recent weeks that he is working to correct the deficiencies and implement the recommendations suggested by the independent examiners.

In the news release yesterday, the tax collector said 2,114 refund checks totaling $808,027 would be mailed out this week.

McAllister, who is so far running unopposed for a third term on the June ballot, said this latest round of checks is the second batch of refunds distributed by his office this year. Last month, 3,500 refunds worth an estimated $1.7 million were mailed out by the county tax office, he said.

"I cannot stress enough the priority our office places in returning monies to the rightful owners," he said.

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