A mistake by a vendor in Sweetwater County led the state of Wyoming to erroneously distribute an extra $2.37 million to local governments in Natrona County, officials at the Wyoming Department of Revenue said Friday.
The error, which was caught during a routine audit, means money will be deducted from the state’s next sales tax distribution to Natrona County and allotted to Sweetwater County, said Kim Lovett, the administrator of the Excise Tax Division of the Department of Revenue.
The Sweetwater County vendor mistakenly reported its taxes in the Natrona County, leading to the error, which occurred from October 2013 to December 2015.
“They filed their returns electronically and they just reported it in the wrong jurisdiction,” Lovett said.
The error led the city of Casper to receive an additional $1.7 million in tax revenue. The Natrona County government collected an additional $366,000. Mills ($108,000), Midwest ($13,000), Bar Nunn ($69,000), Evansville ($80,000) and Edgerton ($6,000) also received more than they were due.
The administrator declined to identify the vendor. She said there are no penalties for mistakes of this nature.
Department of Revenue officials planned to discuss ways to mitigate the effect on Natrona County later Friday, according to Lovett.
Errors of this size are rare, she added.
“I have not [previously] seen a mistake of this magnitude,” Lovett said.
Casper City Manager Carter Napier told the Star-Tribune that he was shocked by the news.
“It was very discouraging given all the work that we’ve done to keep ourselves self-sustaining ... It’s something that we didn’t anticipate and there’s nothing that we did that caused this problem,” he said.
Napier said he will be meeting with state officials next week and plans to push for more information. City leaders are still discussing how to adjust the budget for the 2018 fiscal year to account for the reduced funding.
Casper City Councilman Dallas Laird said that all council members have been notified about the issue.
“It is concerning, and I want to know who the vendor was and I want to understand from them how this happened,” Laird said. “Then I want to understand why it took the state several years to figure it out.”
The councilman said he expects the city’s leaders will be discussing the matter at Tuesday’s work session.
Mills Treasurer Christi MacRae stated in an email that the town’s officials had also been informed.
“We were recently contacted by the Department of Revenue who informed us that the Department of Audit had discovered that sales tax revenue had mistakenly been reported in Natrona County ... We’ll provide additional information once those details become available,” she wrote.
While the error may leave Natrona County governments scrambling, the unexpected money will be a “nice little shot in the arm” for Sweetwater County, said County Treasurer Robb Slaughter.
Slaughter explained that he’s still learning about the situation. He said he was aware officials were looking into the matter but didn’t know additional details.
This isn’t the first time there was a mix-up with taxes in Sweetwater County, according to the treasurer.
“We had a situation years and years ago where a taxpayer actually paid property taxes in Carbon County — it was a major deal,” he recalled.
Slaughter said Sweetwater County officials ultimately decided to let Carbon County keep the funds.