County to pay penalties on late tax payments

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Auditor/treasurer errors result in $4,500 fee

Mower County will have to pay $4,514.45 in penalties to the IRS after County Auditor/Treasurer Doug Groh inadvertently made two late payments on the county’s payroll this year.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners approved an amendment to the auditor/treasurer’s office Tuesday amid concerns about the extra costs.

“We can’t be paying penalties,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said. “It’s as simple as that.”



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According to county officials, Groh posted late tax payments to the IRS due on March 28 and June 6, both Fridays.

Groh called those payments late on Fridays knowing they would be posted on the following Monday, but he told the board he thought he had more time to make payments.

“My initial research suggested we could enter a payroll the following Wednesday,” Groh said.

However, county officials told the board those payments needed to be entered within 24 hours after county staff finished payrolls on March 27 and June 5. County officials weren’t aware they had made late payments until the IRS looked into the county’s quarter reports and issued penalties in late June and early September. County officials say the September penalty payment was also late to the IRS, though it’s unknown whether the county will face further repercussions.

Groh said part of the reason why he made late payments was because his department was understaffed and he didn’t receive payroll information on time, but county officials say Groh was emailed everything he needed on time.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said the auditor/treasurer has always made payroll tax payments to the IRS as part of a check and balance system on the county’s payroll. Though penalties will be paid through the auditor/treasurer budget, commissioners urged Groh to turn tax payments over to payroll, something Groh said he had advocated for earlier this year.

Commissioners weren’t pleased with Groh’s error.

“Ultimately, the board is responsible for that,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny said. “We’re the ones who will take the grief.”

This isn’t the first time the county has made late payments, but Oscarson said the IRS has waived penalties in previous years. Groh said he sought to get IRS officials to waive penalties this year, but the IRS had already issued a waiver on a payroll date error made by county staff and wouldn’t issue another.

Yet Commissioner Polly Glynn urged Groh several times to give payment duties to other county staff.

“The bottom line is, in my mind, we don’t want to pay out $4,500 in penalties,” she said. “We expect it to be paid on time.”

It’s unclear when Groh will transfer tax payments to the county’s payroll department.