BRECKSVILLE, Ohio – Suburban leaders said they were happy the Regional Income Tax Agency extended Tuesday's filing deadline for municipal income taxes until next Monday.
"Obviously we're not happy with the situation (that caused the deadline extension) but at least they extended the deadline so that no one will receive a penalty for filing late," Cleveland Heights Mayor Dennis Wilcox said. The city switched from in-house collection to paying RITA in 2012.
Said Cuyahoga County Councilman Dave Greenspan, who represents Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River and Westlake: "If the deadline's been pushed back, that's an appropriate response."
Mayor Dennis Clough, of Westlake, expressed concern but said he didn't know all the reasons for the problems.
"Anytime someone is not able to file their taxes when they are due, it's an issue we should be concerned about," Clough said. "We're always disappointed when something like this happens, but I don't really know all the reasons why."
Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen also expressed concern.
"We're a little disappointed, but I think they've handled it now," he said. "They will let it go until April 21. I think they are doing the right thing, but we would like to see things run smoothly. I don't think they were ready for the onslaught."
North Ridgeville Mayor G. David Gillock said RITA did the right thing by giving taxpayers more time to file.
RITA said it extended the deadline because its website and phone system have been overwhelmed with hits and calls from last-minute tax-filers.
“For those who have been unable to connect with the agency, tax filings postmarked or electronically transmitted by Monday, April 21, by midnight, will not be assessed penalty or interest for late filing,” the RITA notice said.
The notice said RITA has experienced an “unprecedented demand” for online services, including the electronic filing of municipal income taxes in dozens of communities across Ohio. RITA itself may have sparked some of that demand. Earlier this year, the agency mailed postcards to taxpayers informing them that it would not routinely mail paper forms. as it has in past years.
It recommended that taxpayers file online, call RITA for forms or download forms from the agency’s website.
The notice sent to mayors on Tuesday said that RITA responded by increasing its Internet bandwidth and phone coverage. RITA said those upgrades “improved the taxpayers’ access.”
The problem, said Steven Presley, treasurer of the RITA board, is that so many people waited until the last minute to file. The notice said that since midnight Tuesday, RITA has answered more than 200 phone calls an hour and that it has helped more than 100 taxpayers an hour in person at an RITA office.
“The agency is further continuing to expand access to meet this extraordinary request for contact,” the notice said. “Additionally, (tax) forms have been made available to member municipalities for placement on their municipal websites.”
RITA’s announcement that it was extending the filing deadline seems to contradict comments made Monday by Don Smith. RITA executive director. It also added more confusion to the situation.
Smith, in an email to Northeast Ohio Media Group, said Ohio and municipal law – not RITA – establishes the filing deadline for municipal taxes. However, Gary Gudmundson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said state law gives local communities leeway to set municipal filing deadlines, as long as the deadlines are April 15 or later.
Smith did not return emails Tuesday from Northeast Ohio Media Group.
North Royalton Mayor Robert Stefanik said he talked to his department heads Tuesday morning about the situation and whether the city can or should extend the deadline. Stefanik said those discussions became moot after RITA’s announcement that taxpayers have until Monday to file. He said the city will post that information on its website.
On Monday, Brian Thunberg, government liaison officer with RITA, sent an email to Stefanik and other mayors. It said if city leaders receive calls from residents having trouble with RITA’s website or phones, they should advise them to call RITA again before 5 p.m. that day, or to log onto the recently launched taxpayer web portal at ritaohio.com .
Reporter Bruce Geiselman contributed to this story.