Taxes are high in Nebraska. No surprise here. We pay sales tax, income tax, excise tax, motor fuel tax, and user fees to the Nebraska Department of Revenue. We also pay property tax, wheel tax, local sales tax and local user fees to our local governmental bureaucracies.
Times are tough in Nebraska. No surprise here, either. Families are tightening their belts so much their belly buttons are rubbing up against their spinal columns. People are driving less, dining out less, buying less in general. We’re not poor, mind you. We just don’t have any money.
Since Nebraskans aren’t spending like it’s May 21, the Department of Revenue isn’t getting as much money as the Lege would like it to get so they could spend it on stuff like roads to nowhere (see: Highway Blues). And, since taxes are already high and Nebraskans don’t have any money, the idea of raising taxes to bring in more money is a political non-starter with the Lege and the Guv.
Senator Abbie Cornett, chair of the revenue committee, posed to herself the question: If we can’t raise taxes, and we can’t get those silly taxpayers to spend their last nickel on a shiny new yacht, how do we get more money?
That’s when the vultures began to circle.
Senator Cornett met over the summer with several giant global data mining companies who told her they could find lots of “new” tax money in Nebraska by mining the personal and business information of Nebraskans to find “patterns of behavior” that indicate the person or business is possibly underreporting income, is not paying enough taxes, is not filing tax reports, or is otherwise acting “fraudulently.”
And, the vultures hissed in her ear, it won’t cost the state’s general fund a dime.
The vultures said they can offer their services on a contingency contract, which means they will get a cut of all of the “new” money collected by the state of Nebraska as a result of all of this personal data mining. In case it hasn’t become obvious already, the more Nebraskans they shake down, the more money they make for themselves.
One of the vultures, Teradata Government Systems, is a giant global company in 40 countries, beholden to their shareholders to keep profits high, which translates to: nail a bunch of unsuspecting taxpayers for buckets o’cash so our corporate bosses can vacation in Dubai.
The Missouri Department of Revenue noted, after contracting with the vultures: “Our Teradata Tax Compliance data warehouse has given us the capability to combine data from over 25 internal and external sources to develop a more accurate view of each of our taxpayers.”
I don’t know if that creeps you out, but it creeps me out big time.
Senator Cornett was so in love with the idea of squeezing more money out of Nebraska taxpayers by digging electronically into their personal lives that she introduced LB642 and made it her priority bill. The vultures came to the revenue committee hearing and gave glowing accounts of how much money they have collected for other state governments and how they can do the same for the state of Nebraska, because, as we all know, Nebraska’s populace is full of scofflaws and scoundrels.
The revenue committee was so enamored with the vultures that they voted the bill out of committee unanimously, including the part that exempted the vultures from competitive bidding for their contracts.
Senator Avery was particularly concerned about the lack of competitive bidding so he introduced an amendment to strike that portion of the bill. After some debate on why we should allow vultures to swoop into Nebraska without at least holding them to the statutory requirements of other contractors, Senator Avery’s amendment passed.
On select file, Senator Schumacher admonished the other senators, who were playing “Mole! Mole! Mole!” and checking email messages on their smartphones, to pay more attention to this bill. He pointed out that allowing out-of-state giant companies to mine the personal information of Nebraskans is probably not the smartest public policy in the world. And he very kindly and correctly said most Nebraskans are pretty darn honest.
Thank you, Senator Schumacher.
But the senators didn’t listen. They pressed their little green buttons and sent the bill on to final reading, then they got back to the serious business of whacking those little smiley moles.
So when you get that plain brown envelope from the Nebraska Department of Revnue in the mail, you will be relieved to know that not a dime of “old” taxpayer money was spent to pay that guy staring at his computer screen in Mumbai who spent days and nights searching through your personal and business credit card history, cell phone calls, bank statements, online purchases, charitable contributions, and tax records; and then flagged you for an audit.
Makes you want to whack a mole.