Tax Day: Past due

Tax Day: Past due

For some people, including state employees, the deadline for filing federal and state income taxes came and went a long time ago.

Today's the day — the deadline for the filing of federal and state tax returns. Just the thought of it puts many people in a foul mood, whether they've already filed, are scrambling to meet the midnight deadline or already have secured an extension.

In that context, here's another small burr to put under the saddle.

The Illinois Department of Revenue reports that 312 state employees — two of them state legislators — have yet to file their tax returns for the 2014 tax year.

The number used to be a lot higher — 5,497. But Revenue Department officials said they started matching W-2 tax forms to payroll records. After discovering the embarrassment, they focused on securing compliance and have made a substantial dent in the problem.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, calls the situation "outrageous" and contends that state employees should be held to a higher standard. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago's Civic Federation, said it's "frustrating and annoying" for ordinary taxpayers to read about state employees failing to meet their obligations to file their tax returns.

They're both correct, to a degree.

But what the critics overlook is that public employees are no different than other taxpayers. Some of them have financial problems. Some are disorganized. Some have venal motives. The vast majority work hard and play by the rules.

It's good to see that the Revenue Department recognizes this mini-problem and has put an emphasis on resolving it. Appearances do matter, and tax officials can't allow themselves to be perceived as applying one set of rules to state employees and another to everyone else.

But, the two unidentified legislators aside, this is pretty small potatoes. If only all of Illinois' financial woes were on this scale. How sweet it would be.

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