A calculator that helps taxpayers figure out what a child support order can be garnished from a child’s paycheck could be on its way to Mississippians, prompting calls for it to be removed from the state’s website.
The state’s Department of Revenue has been using a “child support calculator” to help parents and guardians navigate child support orders since 2009, but it’s been removed from state websites in recent months, and it’s now only available through the state budget office.
The calculator is part of the state Budget Division’s online tool that allows people to input data on their own, but the department says it doesn’t collect data on the number of children in a household, the amount of money owed, or how many days a particular order was served.
The tool is supposed to be used to assist taxpayers in paying child support.
However, the calculator’s main function is to help families figure out how much child support they can garnish from their paycheck.
According to a report by the Minnesota Policy Research Institute, which researches and analyzes tax policy, there are around 7.2 million child support cases in Minnesota, and a whopping 85 per cent of child support is collected by garnishment, meaning it’s sent to the debtor’s bank account.
That means the calculator is actually useful only to those with a bank account, and that’s what’s driving calls for its removal from the Department of Public Safety website.
“What this is trying to do is give parents the tools to determine what is the most appropriate way to proceed,” said Mike Rochon, executive director of the Minnesota Poverty Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income people and families.
“I think the Legislature should be moving this out of their website.
It’s not just about helping the state out.
It is really trying to serve a purpose that should be served by taxpayers, and the state is taking a bad example and not doing that.”
The state has been trying to make child support calculators available to anyone who wants to use them, but there are currently no websites available that include it.
The Department of State Revenue website lists an FAQ about how to use the calculator, but states that it is a free service and is “for people who want help with child support or child support garnishment cases.”
The department says its purpose is to assist individuals and families to make a better decision on how to spend their tax dollars.
However this is a misleading description, said Rochat.
The IRS also doesn’t provide an easy way to find information about child support in the child support system, and is required by law to disclose any information it receives that is related to the tax code.
For instance, if the state collects income tax on income earned by a person, it can’t show it on a child tax credit form.
And while the IRS can provide information about a child in the case of paternity, the department doesn’t appear to have an easy or simple way to use this information.
“That’s why we are so frustrated and so concerned about what’s happening,” Rocht said.
“This is really a problem that the Legislature hasn’t addressed.”
The calculator has been on the Department’s website since 2009.
“The Department of Economic and Community Development (DEED) is responsible for administering the Child Support Calculation and for coordinating the collection and distribution of the tax information,” DEED spokesperson Michael Rochson said in an email.
“If a child is not a legal parent or guardian of a child and the taxpayer has filed a claim, the taxpayer will be notified of the determination by the Department.
The Calculation is based on a sample of child’s tax records and will not be an accurate or complete calculation of the total child support owed.”
In recent months the Department has taken action to correct the calculator and it was removed from its website.
On June 15, the Department wrote to those who had previously used the calculator that it was being removed from all its websites.
“Because of the nature of the data and the complexity of the calculation, it has been removed and the department cannot respond to requests for comment,” Rachson said.
While the Department did not specify what information it had removed, it said it would be updating the website “in the near future.”
The Department also said it had made changes to the way it collects child support and it would also be working with the state legislature to update the website to reflect this.
“DEED is committed to providing taxpayers with a clear and concise resource that is used in an effective and efficient manner,” Richson said, adding that it would continue to “work with the Legislature to develop a state-wide child support calculation and child support guidance for all Minnesota taxpayers.”
Rochi said that’s not enough.
“It’s important for taxpayers to know where their child support comes from,” Ruchon said.
The problem is that, Rocho said, the government doesn’t even know what it’s collecting