As his office began accepting individual tax returns Monday, Comptroller Peter Franchot talked to C4 about best practice for taxpayers and the appetite he sees for his 2022 gubernatorial run.
Franchot announced his intentions to run just before the start of the legislative session. He has not officially filed. Gov. Larry Hogan is term-limited.
He said he believes his modernization of the comptroller's office proves his good-governance chops to voters. Franchot succeeded the late William Donald Schaefer in 2007.
"So I happen to think that I've done a good job of earning the trust and confidence of people on the tax issue... and we're being able to answer 800,000 phone calls a year very quickly, we're able to get refunds back very quickly, your money back in your bank account," Franchot said. "I think I can do the same thing with the state."
In 2018, 72.1% of voters supported giving Franchot a fourth term. He has run unchallenged in the primary since he first ran for re-election in 2010. However, he has rankled some establishment Democrats by siding with Hogan on some issues, including air conditioning for Baltimore city and county schools and Hogan's executive order mandating that schools start after Labor Day.
Franchot said he feels he connects directly with voters.
"I have a great connection with Maryland citizens and there's no such thing as a Democratic tax return or a Republican tax return and people realize that. They see me as a straight shooter," Franchot said. "The voters there, they want someone who's going to hold the line on taxes, debt, spending."
Pivoting to his day job, Franchot also talked about the start of tax season. On average, his office can get tax refunds into bank accounts in just over two days, he said. He also cautioned filers looking for a tax preparer to be wary of fraud.
"There's some tax preparers who are fly by night pop-ups around tax time, you know," Franchot said. "They have a sign saying, 'We sell used tires and we'll also do tax returns.' Please don't use them because they tend to be incompetent or fraudulent. And if it's your tax return, you're responsible for it, even if they prepare it."