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Tax Time Mixup: Dept. of Revenue Sends Returns To Wrong Person

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Written by Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Revenue sent an Ouray woman’s 2010 tax returns to the home of a Denver man who says he is stunned by the mixup.

“Well coming from the state I think they would be more professional in handling their jobs,” Charles Harris said.

Harris lives on the 2100 block of Vine Street in Denver. Last Friday a letter arrived for him, sent to his correct address, from the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Income Tax Clearing Room. But inside the envelope was the 2010 tax return of a woman in Ouray.

The state was trying to send the documents back to the woman as she had filed them improperly. So Harris received all of the retired woman’s personal information — name, address, social security number, income information. Harris said in the wrong hands, the information could be used to financially devastate the woman through identity theft.

“For the state to send something like that, makes you wonder,” Harris said. “I’m very concerned what’s going on. You’ve got some inadequate people sending stuff to other people; it may fall into the wrong hands or something. There’s a problem.”

Harris turned the woman’s return over to CBS4, which in turn handed it over to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

According to the Department of Revenue, it processed more than 2.1 million individual income tax returns last year. DOR says it receives more than 24,700 pieces of mail in February.

Mark Couch, a spokesman for the Department of Revenue, told CBS4 what came to our attention “doesn’t happen often — very, very rarely.”

Couch said a state employee stuffed the wrong document in the wrong envelope.

“This is done by hand, by a human being,” Couch said. “And what happened here is someone made a mistake and put this in the wrong envelope.”

Couch said the department apologizes for the error and any embarrassment it has caused. Asked if the woman’s personal information is the sort of data that should be kept  confidential, Couch said, “Right, it should only go back to the taxpayer.”

He said the employee who made the mistake has been with the Department of Revenue since 1999 and rarely has complaints made about her work.

“People make mistakes. Human error is part of our lives.”

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