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Finance chief talks about PUA, stimulus checks and hotel occupancy tax

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SECRETARY of Finance David DLG Atalig said errors have delayed the approval of some Pandemic Unemployment Assistance applications.

During a press briefing Friday on KKMP radio, he said an error as simple as incorrect routing numbers or account numbers, or incorrectly noting a bank account as a checking account instead of a savings account or vice versa, will trigger an error with the claim.

Two consecutive errors with the direct deposit method of payment for claims will result in the payment method converting to paper check, due to certain ACH [Automated Clearing House] banking policies, Atalig said.

“The reason is we [have to comply with]…banking laws and banking regulations…. Our access to…an ACH is suspended until we clear these banking errors, so to minimize those challenges, we just convert them to paper checks since we’re already able to print paper checks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor standards.”

Stimulus

Regarding stimulus checks, if a taxpayer has yet to receive his or hers, they are encouraged to contact the Department of Finance-Division of Revenue and Taxation, and the Division of Treasury, Atalig said.

As for community members who suspect that their stimulus check was mailed to the wrong post office box and may have already been cashed, he said such cases require filling out a form that will then prompt an investigation by the Division of Revenue and Taxation and Division of Treasury.

He said a report will also need to be made to the Department of Public Safety.

“Once we get a police report, then the process starts in [re-issuing] the check. If it’s deemed fraudulent, then we can work with the taxpayer,” Atalig said.

He strongly encourages taxpayers to contact either the Rev & Tax or the Treasury division to share any and all information that they may have regarding their missing check.

The stimulus check could have been received in the wrong post office box for a number of reasons, he said.

For example, he said, a stimulus check could have been placed in the wrong post office box; the taxpayer may have given the wrong post office box number when filing his/her taxes, or perhaps the taxpayer gave the correct post office box number and somehow the stimulus check was placed in the wrong post office box.

“Those are situations that need to be investigated,” Atalig said.

Hotel occupancy tax

Also on Friday, Secretary Atalig  talked about the Office of the Public Auditor’s audit report on the hotel occupancy tax.

“We are in agreement with a lot of their findings,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we are challenged with the staffing to do all of the mandated requirements we need to do to ensure accurate hotel occupancy tax is being collected.”

The main concern, he said, is for the Airbnbs and transient apartments, which are also expected or need to pay the hotel occupancy tax.

“We’re working on upgrading our tax system so that it can alert us of the different taxpayer categories — in this case, the hotel occupancy tax or apartment dwellings that have that business category in the system, so we can monitor and catch any inconsistent collections of their hotel occupancy tax as compared to their [business gross revenue] tax,” he said.

Secretary Atalig said the Department of Finance has been in communications with vendors to assist them with hotel occupancy tax collection  challenges.

He said the Division of Revenue and Taxation is working on addressing the concern by next year.

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