SPRINGFIELD — The Internal Revenue Service is slowing the pace with which it releases data on the migration of people — and thus their income — between states.

In the past, it has taken one to two years for the IRS to prepare and release migration information, according to J. Scott Moody. He heads State Budget Solutions, a national group dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility in the state governments. He says it now takes three years to obtain such information.

“The (compiling of) IRS migration data was actually cancelled a few years ago, but it was reinstated thanks to a lot of political pressure from Congress. But since that reinstatement they have taken a quite a long time — and that is a disservice to taxpayers,” Moody said.

For example, according to a memo written by Ruth Schwartz of the IRS Statistics of Income Division, migration information for 2012 will not be available until late 2015. “Please note that this time frame is tentative. We are limited by current project workloads and staffing resources,” she added.

St. Louis researcher Travis Brown wrote the book “How Money Walks” based on IRS migration data.

“This is extremely important information. We are talking about trillions of dollars moving across the country,” he said. “This information is available because of the urging of Congress. There is absolutely no good reason for why the IRS can’t provide this information.”

Brown added that excuses such as “staffing shortages” ring hollow to him. “[G]enerally I believe the simplest explanation: the bureaucrats don’t value transparency,” he said. “We have heard a lot of excuses from the IRS. But the bottom line is they are providing lots of other data. There is no reason why they can’t provide this,” Brown said.

Moody said migration information is important for state lawmakers to use when shaping policy to ensure growth and encourage a healthy state business climate. For example, Brown’s research found that between 1992 and 2002 Illinois lost $31.27 billion in annual adjusted gross taxpayer income. The top states Illinois lost taxpayer income to include Florida, Arizona, California, Texas and Wisconsin.

“Often times, elected officials are oblivious to where people are moving,” Brown said. “A Chicago person may see a U-Haul in their neighborhood and think it is heading to Aurora when in reality it is going to Fort Myers, Fla., or Phoenix. Lawmakers can review the information, see where people are moving and find out why and cite the data for making policy changes such as lowering taxes.”
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