From The Columbus Dispatch

Nearly $14 million in refunds will be given to 3,500 companies, the initial fruits of a Kasich administration effort to help businesses determine whether they’ve overpaid Ohio’s commercial activity tax.

The number of refunds and their cumulative dollar amounts will grow as the administration’s audit expands, but the public won’t be able to track which companies receive refunds and how it was determined that they overpaid, Department of Taxation Commissioner Joe Testa said yesterday, citing confidentiality provided by Ohio law.

Testa and Gov. John Kasich said during a news conference that the initiative is another step in Ohio becoming more business-friendly. They said the tax department’s review of commercial-activity tax filings and its notification of businesses that overpaid break from past practices; the state used to keep the overpayment if the business didn’t apply for a refund.

“The idea is not that we’re just taking money out of the treasury and just willy-nilly giving it to people,” Kasich said. “What we’re doing here is the really important work of saying you shouldn’t overpay and then we kind of keep your money and not tell you about it. That’s just a rip-off. There’s no other way to describe it other than a governmental rip-off.”

But the apparent inability of the public to track which businesses are receiving the refunds drew criticisms from Democrats and government watchdogs who favor transparency, citing the importance of being able to track the millions of dollars that will go from the state back to businesses.

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