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Food stamp recipients, prisoners could be illegally taking grocery tax payments

Food stamp recipients, prisoners could be illegally taking grocery tax payments

Dustin Hurst
March 6, 2015
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March 6, 2015

Idaho isn’t entirely sure if people who buy groceries tax-free using federally funded food stamps also receive refundable tax credits from the state.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, aims to fix that.

Moyle, with the help of Idaho State Tax Commission Deputy Attorney General Bill Von Tagen, introduced a bill Friday to address the issue.

The oddity is a product of a rebate system in Idaho’s tax code. At tax time, Idahoans apply for grocery tax credit dollars, up to $100 per year per household member. The state returns the grocery tax money, which is refundable.

That process, its backers say, helps Idaho capture food tax dollars from undocumented immigrants and tourists, who cannot apply for the rebates.

Moyle’s bill, unanimously introduced Friday by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, would allow the tax commission to share information with the Department of Health and Welfare, which administers food stamps, to verify tax rebates.

“If you’re getting public assistance to buy your food, you don’t get the credit,” Von Tagen told the panel.

During testimony, the attorney said the bill would also cover residents in jail and prisons, who also cannot claim the food tax rebate.

Because the agencies don’t share information, the tax commission cannot say just how often residents abuse the rebate law.

“We don’t know how big the problem is,” Von Tagen said.

IdahoReporter.com inquired about the issue earlier this year, but the commission couldn’t offer many specifics.

“While we can’t divulge the specifics of our review process, we take every opportunity to validate the information on the tax returns we receive,” Liz Rodosovich, the commission’s public information office, wrote in January.

“Even though all reported items on a tax return are subject to audit, we’re making an effort to work with other state agencies to share information to help us ensure that only those who qualify for the grocery credit actually receive it.  And we’re always looking for ways to improve our processes.”

The measure will receive further discussion in the next week or two.

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