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Filing taxes just got a lot messier for employees of SF’s public schools

San Francisco Unified School District offices | Michaela Vatcheva for The Standard

A newly discovered tax error by the San Francisco Unified School District put tax filings and returns up in the air for thousands of its employees. 

Upon San Francisco school staff reporting tax return numbers being off, the school district recently found that it did not file three quarterly reports to the state in 2022 specifying how much taxes workers already paid. 

Workers may owe up to $9,000 in taxes, said United Administrators of San Francisco President Michael Essien. This is on top of the issues that have emerged when it comes to overpayments, incorrect W-2 forms and lack of clarity over what’s been reimbursed due to the EMPower payroll system causing havoc for over a year. In December, the district began clawing back overpayments made to staff in responding to paycheck errors.

“There are a lot of people whose taxes are messed up,” Essien told The Standard. “People are being hit financially because of EMPower. I don’t know how and when this thing is gonna get fixed.”

The district is investigating the cause of the issue. According to a statement issued on Tuesday, officials have not yet confirmed if it is due to the faulty payroll system. In a separate message to staff, Superintendent Matt Wayne said it is taking accountability measures. 

At Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Superintendent Matt Wayne called it “frankly unacceptable and incredibly disappointing.” 

“This is definitely a step backwards in how we're working to support our staff through our payroll system and other business operations,” said Wayne, who began last July. “Just the fact that there are any errors that our employees need to deal with after what’s already been a challenging and stressful year is something that is disappointing to all involved.” 

The California Employment Development Department, where the reports were meant to be filed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Some workers may not be able to file their returns, while those who did file may encounter additional difficulties to rectify the issue. 

Chris Clauss, a special education teacher, held off on filing after seeing some concerning posts in an educator forum. But due to a death in the family and being away to deal with the emergency, her household was counting on a return as soon as possible to restore their finances and pay any remaining bills. 

“Our tax return is needed to replace what we spent having to be away from home for so long,” Clauss said. “Now we don’t even know if what we were getting is correct.” 

Superintendent Wayne promised a detailed update by Monday.
For those who can hold off, most Californians do not have to file their taxes until Oct. 16. The IRS granted this extension to everyone in the nine county Bay Area due to severe weather earlier this year.