Annapolis, Md. (February 25, 2014) – Against a backdrop of uniformed sheriffs from Allegany to Wicomico counties, Comptroller Peter Franchot today urged the Maryland House of Delegates to pass House Bill 610, legislation sponsored by Delegate Anne Kaiser and aimed at expanding the successful warrant intercept program piloted in Anne Arundel County. The program would allow the Comptroller’s Office to withhold tax refunds to Maryland residents who have outstanding warrants.
“This initiative complements my guiding principle of rewarding those taxpayers who abide by the law and aggressively pursuing those who do not. Law enforcement officers and the public they are sworn to protect will benefit — as their counterparts in Anne Arundel County currently do — from this additional public safety tool. This legislation embodies our shared commitment to using all available resources to enforce the law and protect Marylanders” said Comptroller Franchot.
The proposed program mirrors the highly successful Anne Arundel County Warrant Intercept Program which passed into law two years ago and became permanent in 2013. As of February 24, nearly $470,000 in refunds has been withheld from more than 600 individuals with outstanding warrants. Anne Arundel County officials have cleared 480 warrants as a result of this program.
“This law screams efficiency and safety for all involved. It is by far the most fiscally responsible way to reduce the number of outstanding warrants. I’m glad the entire state is embracing this concept,” said Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ronald Bateman.
The initiative is strongly supported by law enforcement throughout the state and has garnered the support of the Maryland Sheriff’s Association.
“Maryland Sheriff’s Offices and other law enforcement agencies need innovative techniques to reduce the pending criminal arrest warrant backlog while maintaining fiscal accountability. The Maryland Sheriff’s Association believes that this legislation will assist in achieving our goal of reducing outstanding warrants in an efficient and effective manner,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Darren M. Popkin, who serves as current president of the Maryland Sheriffs Association.
The Comptroller provided support for Senate Bill 653, the cross file of House Bill 610, sponsored by Senator John Astle. SB 653 recently was heard in the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
Delegate Kaiser, Senator Astle and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention echo the efficiency and increased safety of the warrant program.
“A warrant intercept program is a simple, efficient way to reduce the number of outstanding warrants in the state,” said Delegate Kaiser. “With the implementation of a tax refund withholding program, the state will be able to drastically reduce the number of outstanding warrants, allowing law enforcement agencies to focus on more pressing issues. This bill will help to keep more Marylanders safe by allowing law enforcement personnel to do what they do best: keep the public safe,” said Delegate Kaiser.
“This is a program that started as a pilot in Anne Arundel County which has worked extremely well in lowering the number of warrants held by the Sheriff’s Office,” said Senator Astle.
“The statewide program would be an expansion of the initiative implemented in Anne Arundel County with great success,” said Tammy Brown, executive director for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “This initiative decreases the level of danger for members of law enforcement who would otherwise need to serve these warrants in person.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Feldmann, 410-260-6346 (office), 443-336-0215 (cell)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 19, 2014) – Back for a third year, Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that his office is accepting nominations for the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award. Established in 2012 to honor the unparalleled legacy of public service left by former Governor and Comptroller Schaefer, the award is presented in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City to individuals and organizations with an unwavering commitment to helping people.
Award recipients will be selected on their demonstration of: improving the community; promptly responding to a citizen problem through effective government intervention; directly aiding those most vulnerable in society; or establishing a public/private partnership to improve the lives of fellow Marylanders.
“There are countless organizations and citizens throughout Maryland, who personify Governor Schaefer’s lifelong commitment to helping people. I’m proud to recognize those who go above and beyond to support others and improve our state,” said Comptroller Franchot.
The Comptroller will personally present the award to each winner starting in April.
The nomination form, additional information and a list of past winners can be found on the Comptroller’s website. All nominations must be received by March 21, 2014
MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Feldmann, 410-260-6346 (office)
Salisbury, Md (January 16, 2014) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today voiced strong support for the state to re-couple the Maryland estate tax with federal government regulations. The Comptroller made the announcement at the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Economic Forecast event.
Currently, Maryland estates worth more than $1 million are taxed by the state at a rate of up to 16 percent while the federal government exempts the first $5.25 million of estates, but taxes up to 40 percent thereafter.
“The large gap between Maryland and the federal estate tax exemption creates inconsistencies for family planning and an uncompetitive environment with neighboring states,” Comptroller Franchot noted. “This doesn’t just benefit the families it would directly affect, either. It’s about attracting entrepreneurs and the jobs they bring with them and keeping the people who so often are bedrock philanthropists who give so much back to our communities,” said Franchot.
Maryland had mirrored federal regulations on estate taxes until the state de-coupled its estate tax in 2002 as the federal government began the phase out of the federal estate tax and increased filing exemption amounts.
Contact: Andrew Friedson, 410-260-7060 (office), 443-414-3083 (cell)
Annapolis, Md. (January 14 , 2014) – With the official start of the 2014 tax filing season only weeks away, Comptroller Peter Franchot shared important information today regarding recent changes to Maryland tax laws and filing processes.
This year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has delayed the start date for filing personal current-year tax returns until January 31, due to the 16-day federal government shutdown. Correspondingly, Maryland will open its tax filing season on the same day as it relies on IRS systems in the processing and verifying of state returns. This year’s tax filing deadline remains April 15, 2014.
“My dedicated staff has been diligently preparing for the tax filing season and are ready to provide the world class customer service that they are known for to all Maryland taxpayers. I encourage everyone to take full advantage of the range of services offered at our 12 branch offices including free tax preparation and electronic filing,” said Comptroller Franchot.
He noted that taxpayers must have a completed federal income tax return and supporting documentation in order for agency staff to complete a state return.
Comptroller Franchot also informed taxpayers of some changes and offered some helpful tips for filing 2013 returns:
Tax Forms, Instructions & Booklets
• Tax Booklets – Tax booklets will not be mailed in 2014. Taxpayers may file electronically or print the tax booklet and forms from the agency’s Website or contact the nearest branch office for assistance.
• Branch Offices – Local branch offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday to assist taxpayers in filling out and electronically filing their tax forms at no cost. A list of branch offices can be found on the agency’s website.
• Telephone Assistance - Telephone service is available 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Comptroller of Maryland offers extended hours for telephone assistance from February 3 – April 15, 2014. During this period, telephone assistance is available from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
• Libraries and Post Offices – The Comptroller’s Office no longer supplies local post offices and all libraries with tax booklets. A limited supply of booklets are available at requesting libraries but each library receives a CD Rom of all forms.
New Local Tax Rates
• Local Tax Rate Increase – For tax year 2013, Anne Arundel County has increased its local tax rate back to 2.56%; Talbot County has increased its rate to 2.40%; and Wicomico County has increased its rate to 3.20%. See Local Income Tax Rates for the list of rates by county. For tax year 2014, Caroline County has increased its rate to 2.73%, Carroll has decreased its rate to 3.04%, and Charles County has increased to 3.03%.
• Personal Exemption Amount - The exemption amount of $3,200 begins to be phased out if your federal adjusted gross income is more than $100,000 ($150,000 for joint taxpayers). The $3,200 exemption is phased out entirely when the income exceeds $150,000 ($200,000 for joint taxpayers). See Instruction 10 in the Resident tax booklet for the reduced amounts, or review the page, Determine Your Personal Income Tax Exemptions. The additional exemption of $1,000 remains the same for age and blindness.
• Dependent Form 502B – This form will be required to be attached to Form 502, Form 505 and Form 515 to determine what exemptions you are entitled to claim. Taxpayers claiming more than two dependents on Form 503 must use Form 502.
• Increased pension exclusion - Maryland’s maximum pension exclusion, which is available to qualifying taxpayers 65 or older, increased from $27,100 to $27,800 for tax year 2013.
• Subtraction Modifications - There are three new subtraction modifications created by the Maryland General Assembly for tax year 2013:
Expands the existing conservation tillage equipment income tax subtraction modification to include qualified purchases of specified (1) manure spreading equipment; (2) vertical tillage equipment; (3) global positioning system devices used for management of agricultural nutrient applications; and (4) integrated optical sensing and nutrient application systems.
Creates a subtraction modification against the state income tax for the noneconomic damages received by a claimant in satisfaction of a claim of unlawful discrimination.
Expands the applicability of an existing income tax subtraction modification for reforestation or timber stand improvement, making it available for land ranging from 3 to 1,000 acres and allowing for a broader range of timber stand improvement activities.
As always, Comptroller Franchot reminds taxpayers that filing electronically is the most efficient and secure way to file a tax return.
For more information on filing Maryland taxes, please visit the Comptroller’s website or call 1-800-MD-TAXES.
MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Hollis, (410) 260-7561 (office), (410) 903-7063 (cell)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (December 11, 2013) – The Board of Revenue Estimates met today to write up revenue estimates for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 by $41.9 million. Comptroller Peter Franchot, as chairman of the Board, released the following statement.
“I’m pleased that this report writes up our expected revenues for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 by a combined $41.9 million, largely due to rising capital gains. I’m glad that, unlike in so many of our past meetings, there is some cause for long-term fiscal and economic optimism within this report.
With the stock market continuing its sustained rise, we’ve seen a noticeable uptick in capital gains receipts and those gains positively impact the personal finances of Maryland families – not just investors of means, but also working families who benefit from rising retirement accounts and college savings plans. This serves as both a reflection and a catalyst for a gradually, albeit slowly, improving economy. After all, when the market experiences prolonged gains, families tend to be more confident with their day-to-day spending habits.
Beyond the positive performance of the stock market, the effects of sequestration appear to have been less than had been feared initially, likely thanks to our leadership in cyber-security, particularly at Fort Meade.
While it’s important to avoid the temptation to misinterpret these encouraging signs out of context, we can appreciate the broader economic picture. Most encouraging, perhaps, is the fact that most of the impediments to economic growth – especially those that were self-inflicted and politically-induced – appear to be behind us.
Recent news out of Capitol Hill indicates progress towards a deal on the federal budget and the debt ceiling. We sincerely hope that our colleagues in Washington will put the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges above their short-term political gains, in order to provide the stability and confidence needed for our economy to grow.
But, as we know, that’s no guarantee, given their poor track record recently in achieving consensus around a deal. So we continue to closely monitor those developments.
Our near-term economic challenges, quite frankly, don’t only depend on compromise in the US Capitol. We still have underlying economic challenges here in Maryland.
Unemployment is still historically high, particularly for Maryland’s standards. Average hourly earnings in Maryland are exactly even with where they were in the depths of the worst economic recession in our lifetime. Maryland ranks 46th in private average hourly and weekly earnings growth during that time.
Based on those figures, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re writing down sales and use tax by more than $40 million, which is a window into what Maryland families and small businesses are experiencing on a daily basis – from diminished consumer confidence to a weak job market to stagnant wages.
The bottom line is that more than five years after the cataclysmic events of 2008, we’re still experiencing the effects of a slow and uncommonly tepid economic recovery. Far too many Marylanders are still taking home the same or less pay at a time when their living costs are rising, meaning they have less disposable income to spend in an economy that’s primarily based on consumer spending.
So we should note some promising signs that there are fewer risks in 2014 than in the past several years, but we must also be cognizant that the Maryland economy remains exceedingly fragile, particularly for working families and small businesses.
We need to proceed with an exceedingly cautious mindset and avoid policy decisions that add uncertainty, would take money out of the pockets of consumers and would make employers reluctant to invest, grow and hire.
As demonstrated by this report and evident in the broader economy, a sustained economic recovery is going to come down to jobs, both here in Maryland and throughout the nation. As long as we see continued weakness on this front, consumers will inevitably pull back, which will cause businesses to struggle and an economy that will continue to underperform. So we simply cannot afford to create any unnecessary road blocks to job growth.
But if we maintain a cautious mindset, Maryland’s economic bones are as strong and resilient as ever, and I continue to be proud of our battle-tested leadership that has capably led this state through these years of economic and fiscal crisis.
For Maryland families and small businesses, the economy remains fragile, and as the State’s chief fiscal stewards, we must continue to exercise tremendous caution and restraint.”
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (December 10, 2013) – Comptroller Peter Franchot advised Marylanders today that announced delays by the IRS will cause a corresponding delay to the beginning of the 2014 state tax season. Due to the 16-day federal government shutdown, the IRS has announced it will delay the start of tax return processing until sometime between January 28 and February 4. Maryland, as with most states, relies on IRS systems in the processing and verifying of state returns. Last year, the tax season started on January 21.
“While I share the understandable frustration most Marylanders will feel about these delays, my Office is working aggressively to process returns and distribute refunds as quickly as external circumstances will allow,” said Comptroller Franchot. “We pride ourselves on top-flight customer service and we are fully committed to doing everything humanly possible to get money back into the hands of consumers as soon as possible.”
IRS officials state that October’s federal government shutdown came at the peak of critical yearly system programming and testing resulting in the delay of these essential quality control processes. The Comptroller’s Office relies on those systems in the processing of state returns. While the IRS has yet to announce the exact date operations will begin, no tax returns will be processed prior to January 28.
“The swift processing of returns and distribution of refunds is my absolute top priority as Comptroller,” Franchot noted. “I’m proud of the agency’s reputation as a national leader in efficiently getting refunds back into the hands of taxpayers and, despite the challenges presented by the IRS delays, we’re prepared to live up to the high standards that Maryland taxpayers rightfully expect.”
While the 2014 tax filing deadline remains April 15, taxpayers may, as usual, request a six-month extension. If an extension is requested from the IRS, one is automatically granted by the Comptroller’s Office.
Free state tax assistance is available at all of the agency’s 12 taxpayer service offices, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A list of office locations can be found at: http://taxes.marylandtaxes.com/Resource_Library/Taxpayer_Assistance/Cont....
For more information on any tax-related matter, please go to the Comptroller’s Website at www.marylandtaxes.com or call 410-260-7980 in Central Maryland or 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937) outside of Central Maryland.
Annapolis, Md. (November 5, 2013) -- A North-American government finance organization recently awarded Comptroller Peter Franchot with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) honored Comptroller Franchot for Maryland’s fiscal year 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Received for the last 34 years, the award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.
"To truly claim consent of the governed, we owe it to the taxpayers we serve to make their government as open and transparent as possible. In that spirit of openness and transparency, I’m proud that my agency’s efforts to educate and inform the public on the state’s finances are being recognized,” said Comptroller Franchot.
The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users to read the publication. For more information on the award program, visit the GFOA website at www.gfoa.org. For more information on the state’s financial picture, view the state’s fiscal year 2012 CAFR.
The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 17,800 government finance professionals.
Just a few minutes ago, I filed as a candidate for re-election as Comptroller of Maryland. See video at FRANCHOT.COM.
Having done so, I wanted to thank you for your support throughout my term in office. Your friendship and sound advice have been vital to my efforts to serve as an independent fiscal watchdog for Maryland’s taxpayers.
Indeed, I begin my re-election campaign with an enduring sense of pride for what we have accomplished together. Under my leadership, the Office of the Comptroller has made it easier for law-abiding Marylanders to pay their fair share of taxes. As a result of both new legislation and innovative public outreach, nearly 80 percent of taxpayers are now filing their taxes electronically. This quick and convenient method has saved the State of Maryland millions of dollars in processing costs, and it enables us to get refund checks back into the hands of most taxpayers within three business days.
At the same time, we have taken quick and aggressive action to protect Marylanders from financial predators. Through new laws and strong enforcement, we have cracked down on unscrupulous tax preparers who saddle vulnerable consumers with exorbitant legal and financial penalties, and have curbed the consumer abuses associated with Refund Anticipation Loans.
While we have rewarded those who do the right thing, we have worked aggressively to collect delinquent taxes from those who haven’t. Through sound investments in technology and personnel, a redoubled commitment to enforcement, and a willingness to take corporate tax cheats to court, we have collected more than $3.1 billion in delinquent taxes during my tenure as Comptroller.
We have eliminated corporate tax avoidance schemes such as Delaware Holding Companies.
We have worked with our federal partners to collect more than $65 million from federal vendors who owe taxes to the State of Maryland.
We have worked with our partners in state and local law enforcement to shut down nightclubs that are operating illegally and evading their tax liabilities.
And we have escalated our fight against a national cigarette smuggling industry that disproportionately harms our kids, deprives our state of much-needed revenue, puts our local businesses at a disadvantage, and has been known to finance organized crime. By passing legislation that stiffens the legal penalties for cigarette smuggling, and by making this the top priority of my nationally acclaimed Field Enforcement Division, it is my goal to make Maryland a firewall against this lucrative and increasingly dangerous industry.
Finally, in order to ensure that our state has the resources to invest in those priorities that are truly sacred – from better schools and affordable health care, to more effective law enforcement and a healthier Chesapeake Bay -- I have fought to create a climate of fiscal responsibility in Annapolis. I have also worked to create an economic climate that is not excessively dependent on government spending, but is capable of attracting good-paying private sector jobs.
I have consistently raised my voice in opposition to tax increases that take money out of the pockets of working people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
As a member of Maryland’s powerful Board of Public Works, I have fought against wasteful and inappropriate spending.
As our state’s chief alcohol regulator, I worked with the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation that enables Maryland wineries to hold events, conduct tastings and even sell their products at farmer’s markets. The following year, we worked together again to pass the landmark “Direct Ship” law that now enables consumers to order wine and have it delivered directly to their homes. When I took office in 2007, there were 25 wineries located in the State of Maryland. Today, there are 64, and I will do everything possible to help sustain the growth of this innovative, environmentally sustainable industry.
I have served as a dependable advocate for those small businesses that have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to survive our nation’s economic downturn – as well as those “cornerstone industries” that serve as a lifeline for jobs and philanthropy in communities that desperately need both. Finally, I’ve been a leading voice for all students to receive a financial education before they graduate from Maryland public schools.
I’m truly honored to serve as your independent fiscal watchdog, and I’m proud of what we have accomplished together. In order continue our shared progress in the areas of taxpayer service, tax fairness and fiscal responsibility, though, I will need your vote. To ensure that I have the resources to share my record and vision with the voters of Maryland, I need your financial support.
Will you help me today with a contribution of $100?
Again, thank you for your continued friendship. It has truly been a privilege to serve you.
Baltimore, Md. (September 13, 2013) – Citing the tireless and selfless service of Maryland’s nonprofit organizations, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that his office recently started sending out letters to alert representatives of local nonprofit organizations that they are in jeopardy of losing or have already lost their federal tax-exempt status for failing to file the requisite Form 990 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for three consecutive years.
Alongside U.S. Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and representatives of Maryland’s nonprofit community, Comptroller Franchot unveiled his campaign to notify organizations that are either at risk of losing federal tax-exemption status or whose status has already been revoked due to failing to comply with a change to the federal filing requirement. A federal law change mandates most small tax-exempt organizations with annual gross receipts equivalent to or less than $50,000 to submit the Form 990 or face revocation of tax exempt status.
“As Maryland’s Comptroller, I want to do everything in my power to ensure that each and every Maryland nonprofit organization, and its mission, is not placed in jeopardy by this matter,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Therefore, my office stands ready to help affected nonprofits resolve their situation and return to good standing, as quickly and as easily as possible.”
Prior to 2006, small nonprofits were not required to complete and submit Form 990. However, most small tax-exempt organizations whose annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less are now mandated to electronically submit Form 990-N, also known as the e-Postcard, unless they choose to file a complete Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead. Nonprofit organizations risk automatic revocation of their federal tax-exempt status if they fail to file the requisite form for three consecutive years. Recently, the IRS provided the Comptroller’s Office with a list of Maryland organizations in jeopardy of losing their tax exemption.
“The services provided everyday by local nonprofit organizations are vital to the health and safety of countless Marylanders, especially during this difficult economy. It’s our duty to protect these organizations as they help our friends and neighbors. I’m proud to support the efforts of the Comptroller’s Office to bring this important issue to the attention of the nonprofit community,” said Congressman Ruppersberger.
Affected organizations can take the following steps to return to good standing with the IRS:
·Call the IRS toll free hotline for tax exempt entities, 1-877-829-5500 for the most updated status report;
·Visit the IRS website that includes explanations of the process and Frequently Asked Questions, by logging on to www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits ;
·Contact the Comptroller of Maryland Ombudsman’s Office for answers to general questions at 410-260-4020 or email@example.com ;
·Visit the Comptroller of Maryland website at www.marylandtaxes.com and click on the hotlink for At-Risk Non Profits;
·Contact the office of your U.S. Senator or Representative for help navigating the IRS system.
“It is of the utmost importance that we help Maryland’s nonprofits clear up their tax situation -- not just for the organizations, but also for the donors who will no longer be able to claim their donations as tax deductions,” continued Comptroller Franchot.
Annapolis, Md. (August 29, 2013) – Reiterating his call for caution in the midst of a slow and anemic economic recovery, Comptroller Peter Franchot released the final closeout numbers for Fiscal Year 2013 today. General Fund revenues totaled $14.9 billion in the fiscal year, 0.4 percent or $62.4 million below the official state forecast.
The revenue data reflected sustained weakness in wages, salaries and consumer spending. Withholding receipts fell $171.3 million short of the state’s modest estimates, increasing just 2.5 percent versus an estimate of 4.0 percent growth. Sales and use tax receipts increased by only 0.7 percent from the previous year, a level of growth that failed to keep pace with the rate of inflation for the same period.
Given the state’s questionable near-term economic outlook, the Comptroller urged the governor and General Assembly to proceed with caution and fiscal restraint.
“These revenue figures highlight an economy that remains exceedingly fragile and uncertain, and they remind us that we must proceed on a prudent financial course in the months ahead. With wages failing to keep pace with the cost of living for too many Maryland families, I would strongly urge my colleagues to resist creating any additional unpredictability for Maryland consumers and small businesses,” Comptroller Franchot said.
To assure Maryland’s taxpayers that their government understands the uncertain fiscal and economic climate we still face, I firmly believe that any fund balance must be saved and not spent,” he added.
Comptroller Franchot noted several factors that have contributed to the state of Maryland’s lethargic revenue performance for the past fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2012 and concluded on June 30, 2013. Among them were:
Maryland’s high unemployment rate which, at 96% of the national unemployment rate, is the highest it has been relative to the US rate since the late 1990s;
The ongoing consequences of sequestration on a state economy that remains heavily reliant upon federal jobs, spending and business opportunities;
The effects of the retroactive state income tax increase that was enacted during the May 2012 special session of the Maryland General Assembly;
The expiration of the federal payroll tax holiday, which increased the tax burden on the average Maryland worker by nearly $700 annually;
“Given the challenges that lie ahead, it is more imperative than ever that we spend taxpayer dollars in the most effective and efficient ways possible, and reassure Maryland’s taxpayers that we are getting the best possible results in return,” said Franchot. “Maryland has long been recognized as a state with extraordinary economic assets, and with leaders who will work together in a spirit of shared resolve to ensure our fiscal and economic security. It is for these reasons that I remain optimistic that we will rise to the challenges that still lie ahead.”