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Citing errors in Baltimore County school employees’ pay, county executive requests federal filing extension

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. is asking the Internal Revenue Service to extend the filing deadline for county school employees due to reporting errors in financial data that teachers worry have led to mistakes on their tax forms.

In a March 10 letter, Olszewski asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to set a July 15 filing deadline for Baltimore County Public School employees because they “continue to experience hardships related to inaccurate, incomplete, or missing financial data” due to a ransomware attack that damaged networks, including instructional, business and financial services.

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Baltimore County Public Schools has said that despite their using a new format for W-2s, the withholding information is accurate, although schools Superintendent Darryl L. Williams told the Baltimore County Council this week that the school system’s Information Technology and Human Resources departments are still working to restore payroll systems after the cyberattack in November.

Cindy Sexton, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the unit representing roughly 9,000 county teachers, confirmed that employees have received late or inaccurate paychecks and have reported issues with insurance coverage, missing deposits into insurance accounts and unpaid tuition reimbursement.

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It’s unclear how much of the issues has been caused by the cyberattack, Sexton said. Some pay discrepancies began before networks were hampered, she said.

“I know our [information technology] and [human resources] departments have been working nonstop — or pretty close to it since the ransomware hit — but it’s not helping our members who haven’t gotten paid,” Sexton said.

In his letter, Olszewski said that BCPS expects “financial reporting errors, including missing or inaccurate pay, will be fully rectified for employees by June 1.”

A school spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

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Williams told council members on Tuesday that restoring the payroll system is underway. The school system’s Employee Self Service portal, which allows employees to view their pay, benefits and track sick and personal days, was relaunched this week.

“I won’t say it’s 100%,” Williams said. “This is some heavy lifting when it comes to our HR system and payroll.”

Olszewski’s request comes as State Comptroller Peter Franchot announced he would extend the state tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 because recent and pending state and federal COVID-19 relief legislation will affect 2020 tax filings.

Olszewski, a former teacher, has asked the IRS to do the same for county employees.

The tax forms were sent March 1 to school employees after the school system was granted an extension from the IRS due to the cyberattack. Typically employers must get the forms to employees by February 1.

Because the W-2 forms showed that employees earned income in both Maryland and Pennsylvania, due to the change in form vendors as a result of the ransomware attack, school officials say, many teachers were advised by accountants not to file them.

Taxpayers face the possibility of fees and interest for incorrect or late taxes. Olszewski has asked the IRS to waive any penalties and interest fees for employees that may be “incurred as the result of errors made by their employer.”

School officials told employees this week that they have made an alternative W-2 form available, and said that the Maryland Comptroller’s Office “had affirmed that the W-2 forms issued by BCPS are compliant with state regulations and may be used to file Maryland tax returns.”

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