It turns out that there’s more to the pokey Missouri tax returns than officials have previously let on, an issue we touched on in this space last week.

The state is normally quick about processing income taxes and getting refund checks in the mail, but this year it’s taking longer. Why? Department of Revenue officials said they hired fewer than half of the usual number of temporary workers to process returns.

But that’s only part of the story. The state’s checking account is near enough to zero to be a concern, and the state took money out of reserves in February and March just to stay in the black. The state Constitution requires that the money be repaid, with interest, by mid-May; that shouldn’t be a problem because tax returns will pick up substantially in the coming weeks. The go-slow-approach to tax returns is part of the cash-flow strategy, officials now concede.

Those filing paper returns are feeling this the most. The turnaround time can exceed a month. Returns filed electronically and returns from seniors and the disabled who have tax credits are being processed more quickly.

None of this is terribly unusual. The state has borrowed from its reserves in six of the last seven years. Other states have delayed tax returns this year.

Money is tight all over, and everyone understands that officials have to take reasonable and prudent steps. Still, it’s safe to assume that most taxpayers would rather their returns be sitting in their bank accounts instead of sitting in an account in Jefferson City, earning interest for the state.