Going through registration process

A worker puts a sticker on a new license plate at the Central West End Driver License and Vehicle Registration Office at 3917 Lindell Boulevard in St. Louis on Monday, March 25, 2019. To renew license plates in Missouri, safety and emissions tests often are required, as is showing proof of insurance and a paid personal property tax receipt as well as paying registration and processing fees. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes,

JEFFERSON CITY — Seven months after a shake up, Gov. Mike Parson has removed the interim tag on the director of the state’s tax collection agency.

In an announcement Wednesday, Parson named Ken Zellers as his pick to run the Department of Revenue, replacing embattled chief Joel Walters, who left amid a storm of controversy in March.

Zellers, a former Anheuser-Busch InBev executive, had previously served as the chief operating officer in the department.

"Ken brings many years of valuable leadership experience to the Department of Revenue and has more than proved himself as acting director," Parson said. "I have full confidence that the department will continue to improve and provide great service to the people of Missouri under his leadership as director." 

Zellers’ salary is set at $128,200.

Walters was brought on board in 2017 by former Gov. Eric Greitens to oversee an agency that collects billions of dollars in income taxes, license plate fees and other revenue.

But he ran afoul of lawmakers over his admitted mishandling of the implementation of federal tax cuts.

Walters testified several times to the Legislature that the state’s withholding tables didn’t correctly account for the standard deduction — the amount of income taxpayers can subtract before income tax — in calculating the federal income tax deduction. Walters said the withholding error had been discovered in September after existing for at least 15 years.

Walters ordered changes to the tables that he believed would reduce the impact of taxpayers withholding too much. The change went into effect in October 2018.

The pressure on Walters was amplified Thursday when the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that the Department of Revenue had initially prepared a news release last year cautioning taxpayers to increase their income tax withholdings for the remainder of the year or face the potential of having to pay taxes instead of receiving a refund.

In a statement, Zellers thanked Parson and called the promotion an “incredible honor.”

“The department has made tremendous strides in the areas of customer service and process improvement. I look forward to working alongside the DOR team, my cabinet colleagues, and the legislature as we continue to make Missouri the best state to live, work, raise a family, and conduct business,” he said.

Zellers was born and raised in Missouri. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis.

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