Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie claimed the Department of Revenue is doing a fair job in operating the unclaimed property division despite a CBS46 investigation which found the department does little to raise awareness of the unclaimed funds among Georgians.
"With the resources we're given every year, we do at least an adequate job in returning property," said MacGinnitie, who claimed lawmakers allot $3.5 million a year to run the program.
The unclaimed property the Department of Revenue holds includes utility and cable refunds, life insurance payouts, stock dividends and the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes whose owners or heirs couldn't be found by the company or bank.
A CBS46 investigation found administrators of unclaimed property divisions in other states actively advertising the forgotten funds to citizens through commercials, YouTube videos, social media and other outreach efforts. Georgia's Department of Revenue does none of that. In fact, the department's staff hasn't issued a news release on the topic since 2007.
MacGinnitie, who was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, pointed out that unclaimed property administrators in some other states are elected positions.
"One might argue they're using public funds to promote their own public awareness of who they are so they can run for office again," said MacGinnitie.
On the contrary, officials from Colorado and Pennsylvania told CBS46 investigative reporter Jeff Chirico that the advertising budget is funded through interest on the unclaimed money.
CBS46 has found the Department of Revenue isn't even meeting the legal requirements for advertising the names of property owners. State law requires the department print the names of owners in newspapers on an annual basis, but MacGinnitie acknowledged that hasn't been done in 10 years.
"It's something we'll have to look at," said MacGinnitie.
The commissioner said he has plans to launch a mobile app and upgrade the current website to improve efficiency.
Despite the fact CBS46 reported on the possible shortcomings within the department in March, MacGinnitie was stumped when Chirico asked him two months later what can be done to raise awareness among Georgians of their missing money.
"I'll have to think about that. I'd like to think about that and get back to you," said MacGinnitie.
MacGinnitie has not contacted Chirico with his ideas since the interview three weeks ago.
To check to see if you have unclaimed property held by the Georgia Department of Revenue, click here.
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