The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) announced on Monday that the Office of Hearings and Appeals will be reassigned to the Management Services Division of DFA and will relocate from the Ledbetter Building to new offices at 1509 West 7th Street. The changes are effective November 1, 2017.
The changes are intended to create as much independence for the Office of Hearings and Appeals as is possible under the current legal framework of the Arkansas Tax Procedure Act. With the relocation, the Office of Hearings and Appeals will no longer be almost across the hall from Revenue Legal Counsel. And the administrative law judges will no longer report up to Tax Commissioner and Deputy Director Walter Anger; instead they will report to Paul Louthian, the DFA Deputy Director in charge of the Management Services Division (which generally handles state finances and accounting, not tax administration). Director's revision appeals from ALJ decisions will continue to be heard by Commissioner Anger, who thus will have authority to make the final determination of DFA on a disputed matter. It remains to be seen whether this change will result in a sense of increased independence for the ALJs (or whether it will help improve the state's score on the Council on State Taxation tax administration fairness scorecard).