It was getting close to 2 p.m., and I needed to get on the road. The drive from Medford to Salem takes four hours, and I wanted to get checked into my hotel room before too late. I knew that the next day I would be sitting in a courtroom at the Oregon Tax Court. I had butterflies in my stomach. I think there is something about courtrooms and government authority that makes us all a little squeamish.
The odd thing about my being nervous is that my job duties include representing the state in tax court proceedings. I am not an attorney — just an accounting professional who said "yes" when I was offered a job with the Department of Revenue. I have not been authorized to speak on behalf of the revenue department, and this article is only my own personal opinion.
In September, a forensic audit by Marsh Minick, a financial crime consulting service, was released to the public. This report, commissioned by the secretary of state's office, looked into the Business Energy Tax Credit Program (BETC). Not only the actions of the Department of Energy, but also the actions of the Department of Revenue were investigated and described in this report.
The revenue department is, in part, responsible for oversight of the business energy tax credits. Some transactions involving these tax credits cause tax money to be owed to the state. The Marsh Minick report discusses (on Page 33) how the department stopped auditing all business energy tax credits from April 11, 2012, until July of 2013, possibly causing a significant amount of tax monies to escape any audit or collection actions.
In my opinion, this action was a serious breach of the revenue department's ethical responsibility to act in the best interests of all Oregon taxpayers. The department's involvement in the failures of the BETC program needs further investigation. Taxpayer money should not have been allowed to flow out of state coffers into the BETC program with little to no supervision.
The recent forensic audit called into question more than a third of a billion dollars' worth of business energy tax credits, and this amount doesn't include any losses from the sale or use of credits that should have been more closely overseen by the department.
The BETC scandal has cheapened the work of the revenue department's auditors. I survive in my job emotionally by keeping in mind that our country is built on laws, and having laws necessitates a place for law enforcement.
To keep the Oregon government credible, we need a further accounting of the business energy credit tax program — including the role the revenue department played in any failures that occurred.
Oregon taxpayers need to be assured that when the state sends someone like me to argue against their case in Tax Court, the agency I stand for is always upholding its ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of all taxpayers.