TOPINKA HELPS TAXPAYERS ‘FOLLOW THE MONEY’

TOPINKA HELPS TAXPAYERS ‘FOLLOW THE MONEY’

Tax return insert shows how dollars are spent

CHICAGO – Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday announced that when Illinois residents open their income tax returns in 2014, they will receive a breakdown of state spending, information about its unpaid bill backlog and other tools to help them better ‘follow the money.'

Beyond putting the financial information in every tax return check envelope, Topinka said her office will make it readily available to taxpayers online.

Click here to view the insert.

"There should be no mystery when it comes to public dollars in this state," Topinka said. "Residents should know exactly where their money is spent and they shouldn't have to dig for it. This insert gives taxpayers insight into state spending and directs them on where to go for even more detail."

Specifically, the tax return insert illustrates what state agencies spend annually on everything from Education and Medicaid to Human Services and Corrections. It further provides snapshots of the state's unpaid bills over time, documenting the backlog at the end of the fiscal year and six months later at the end of the calendar year. Finally, it refers residents to the Comptroller's transparency websites, the Ledger and the Warehouse, for more detail on state and local finances.

The initiative is part of Topinka's ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability in state and local government. In launching the Ledger last year, she enabled taxpayers to click their way through everything from the state's daily bill backlog numbers to state agency budgets and employee salaries.

She more recently created the Warehouse, a comprehensive database that puts Local Government financial information and tens of thousands of records at a single location for taxpayer review. The Warehouse became possible in 2012 after Topinka successfully pushed for legislation requiring local governments and TIF Districts to file Annual Financial Reports electronically.

On Monday, the Comptroller thanked Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas for leading the way on the local level by introducing a similar insert last tax season.

"Treasurer Pappas introduced a similar initiative in Cook County and it raised awareness of how property tax dollars are spent," Topinka said. "I am thrilled to do the same thing at the state level and take yet another step toward greater transparency. And I assure you, we're not done yet – so stay tuned."