Comptroller’s Hagerstown Branch Office Moving to More Convenient Location on June 1

Current location to be closed Wednesday, May 31, to facilitate move

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 18, 2017) – Comptroller Peter Franchot announced that the Hagerstown branch office will be closed on Wednesday, May 31, to allow the agency to move from its current location in the Professional Arts Building at 1 South Potomac Street to its new location at 1850 Dual Highway, Suite 201, Hagerstown, MD 21740. The office will re-open Thursday, June 1.

In January, the Board of Public Works approved a new 10-year lease agreement to make the move possible. The Comptroller’s Office staff worked to find a location that was accessible, convenient and one that offered ample parking.

“The new Hagerstown office is close to the highway, has strong visibility and will offer more convenient parking for taxpayers,” Comptroller Franchot said in describing his priorities for the new branch. “We provide a broad range of services for area taxpayers so they can avoid long trips to our primary offices in Baltimore and Annapolis.”

The current office will close on May 30 at 4:30 p.m. and the new office will reopen on June 1 at 8:30 a.m. Taxpayers in need of assistance on May 31 may visit branch offices in Cumberland or Frederick. Taxpayers in need of free state tax assistance also can call the taxpayer services line from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-MD TAXES, or 410-260-7980.

Media Contact: Barbara Sauers, 410-260-7438 (office) and 410-212-9414 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot Warns Taxpayers of Dangerous W-2 Phishing Scam

School districts, Tribal casinos, Chain Restaurants, Temporary Staffing Agencies, Healthcare, Shipping and Freight industries Now Being Targeted

ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 3, 2017) – Comptroller Peter Franchot is warning taxpayers about a W-2 phishing scam targeting schools, restaurants, hospitals, tribal groups and others. The Comptroller said his agency and Internal Revenue Service are alerting employers that the Form W-2 email phishing scam has moved beyond businesses to school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits. The W-2 scammers also are trying to steal employee W-2 information with an older scheme on wire transfers, which can victimize organizations twice.

“My agency is committed to protecting Maryland taxpayers and stays vigilant for email phishing scams that seek to steal people’s private financial information. These types of crime can lead to fraudulent tax returns, identity theft and can devastate the victims’ financial well-being,” Comptroller Franchot said.

Cybercriminals are using various spoofing techniques to disguise an email to make it appear as if it is from a company or an organization’s executive. The email is sent to an employee in the payroll or human resources departments, requesting a list of all employees and their Forms W-2.  The IRS says the W-2 scam, which first appeared last year, has started earlier this tax season and affects a broader cross-section of organizations. Businesses that received the scam email last year also are reportedly receiving it again this year. Cybercriminals then follow up with an “executive” email to the payroll or corporate comptroller asking that a wire transfer also be made to a certain account.

The Comptroller’s Office advises taxpayers not to reply to emails asking for confidential information, most especially Social Security numbers, birth dates, salary information or home address.  Maryland taxpayers may call 1-800-MD-TAXES or send an email to QRDT@comp.state.md.us to report a problem.

MEDIA CONTACT: Barbara Sauers (410) 260-7438 (office), (410) 212-9414 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot Announces Opening of 2017 Tax Filing Season

Individual Tax Returns Will Begin Processing January 23

CAPTION: Comptroller Peter Franchot speaks with Taxpayer Services employees Xochil Llama, left, and Dana Hopkins during a visit to his agency’s Revenues Administration Division (RAD). Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi and RAD Director Wayne Green joined the Comptroller.

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 12, 2017) – Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that Maryland will begin processing personal income tax returns for Tax Year 2016 on January 23, 2017, the same day the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins accepting returns. In an ongoing effort to combat tax fraud, the agency will not immediately process a state tax return if W-2 information is not on file. Employers are required to report wage information to the Comptroller on or before Jan. 31.

“When Americans have been directly affected by fraud, identity theft, data breaches and other financial crimes, the security of the Maryland taxpayer remains my top priority this tax season,” Franchot said. “Making sure W-2 information is on file at the time a return is received is in keeping with that effort. Last year, my agency stopped processing state tax returns from more than 60 companies whose purpose was to prey on the vulnerable, the homeless and those with limited financial means. I will continue to lead the charge against these unscrupulous practices this tax season.”

Last year, the Maryland Comptroller’s office stopped accepting income tax returns from 61 companies doing business in 68 locations, including 23 different Liberty Tax Service franchises, for submitting numerous highly suspicious returns. Collectively, they filed thousands of state returns that the agency believed to be fraudulent. Processing of business tax returns began Jan. 6.

The 2016 tax return filing deadline this year, which coincides with the IRS deadline, is Tuesday, April 18, rather than the traditional April 15 deadline which falls on a Saturday this year. Since Emancipation Day is observed on April 17 in the District of Columbia, the IRS pushed the filing deadline to Tuesday April 18. Taxpayers are encouraged to file their returns electronically for the fastest possible processing of their claims and to ensure they receive all possible refunds. A list of approved vendors for use in filing your electronic return can be found at www.marylandtaxes.com.

Free state tax assistance is available at all of the agency’s 12 taxpayer service offices, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A list of office locations can be found at www.marylandtaxes.com. For more information on any tax-related matter, please visit the Comptroller’s website at www.marylandtaxes.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937) or 410-260-7980 in Central Maryland.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Peter Hamm 410-260-7060 (office) or 443-414-3083 (cell)
Alan Brody 410-260-6346 (office) or 443-924-1473 (cell)

With Daily Fantasy Sports Games Growing in Maryland, Comptroller Proposes Rules to Ensure Fairness, Protect Consumers

Draft Regulations Don’t Apply to Casual, Season-Long Fantasy Sports Games

BALTIMORE, MD (July 14, 2016) – With daily fantasy sports games drawing in hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, Comptroller Peter Franchot today moved toward regulating the online games, saying the games’ growing popularity call for safeguards to help ensure the games are fair and that winners pay appropriate Maryland taxes.

“Daily online fantasy sports games have established a significant presence in Maryland,” Franchot said. “It is entirely appropriate that we begin making sure the games are fair, anticompetitive abuses are declared out of bounds, and appropriate taxes are paid.”

The proposals issued today would:

• Ban daily fantasy sports game participation by Marylanders under 18; professional athletes in games of their individual sport; and employees, principals, officers, directors or contractors of fantasy sports operators (or members of those individuals’ immediate families).

• Ban games based on amateur or college sports.

• Require game operators to clearly identify players that are highly experienced before potential players decide to enter a game.

• Ban the use by players of third-party created anticompetitive “scripts” – mini-programs which experienced players are currently using to gain advantages that are unfair to more casual players.

• Limit participants to a maximum of $1,000 in deposits per month unless they proactively ask the operator to raise their limit – and certify to the operator they have the financial assets to deposit additional funds.

• Bar game operators from extending any credit to a player.

• Require game operators to hold player funds separate from company operating funds and to establish a reserve fund sufficient to pay all prizes offered to winning Fantasy Sports players.

• Prohibit game operators from depicting minors, students and school or college settings in their advertisements.

• Require game operators to notify Marylanders of their potential tax obligations, and require game operators to comply with State and Federal data security laws.

The draft regulations would only apply to daily fantasy sports contests, not the traditional, season-long fantasy leagues run by companies like Yahoo and ESPN that attract office coworkers, softball teammates or church groups. They will be shared with the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review. Mechanisms will be announced for interested parties to provide input.

Daily fantasy sports are a subset of internet-based fantasy sports games. Players compete against other players by building teams of professional athletes from a particular sports league or competition. The players earn points based on the actual statistical performance of those athletes in real-world competitions.

Daily fantasy sports are an accelerated variety of these fantasy sports in which contests are conducted over short-term periods such as a week or a day instead of over an entire season. They are usually marketed as a “contest,” with winners receiving a share of a pre-determined pot of dollars funded by the players’ collective entry fees.

In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation asserting that fantasy sports were not subject to state prohibitions against wagering and delegated authority to the Comptroller to adopt regulations to carry out the provisions of the law. Since 2012, the games have grown exponentially in popularity.

“These games are being played by a huge number of people in Maryland, but with no regulatory framework to ensure fair games, and no notification of players that if they win, they are potentially subject to Maryland income taxes,” Franchot said. “Lawmakers and law enforcement officials can continue to discuss issues, but we need some rules in place for the benefit of Maryland consumers.”

Franchot and senior staff at the Maryland Comptroller’s office worked with state Attorney General Brian Frosh and his staff to ensure that the proposed regulations were appropriate under authority granted the Comptroller by the 2012 statute.

Drafters of the proposed rules based much of their conclusions on regulatory frameworks in states that have taken action. Rules on the activity are still relatively new. Fewer than half of states have acted to regulate or prohibit daily fantasy sports activities since the activities became mainstream.

###

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Peter Hamm, 410-260-7060 (office) or 443-414-3083 (cell)
Alan Brody, 410-260-6346 (office) 443-924-1473 (cell)

Franchot Joins National Colleagues in Arguing Board Diversification Pace Too Slow

Supportive Fiduciaries, Including Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Collectively Manage More Than $1 Trillion in Pension Funds

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 1, 2016) — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot today joined a group of state and local officials in arguing that corporate boards have been too slow to diversify their ranks and that institutional investors should increase their focus on board diversity as a corporate governance priority.

The joint statement emphasizes that racial, LGBT, and gender diversity are critical dimensions of effective board composition and performance.

“The world is changing, and corporate board rooms need to catch up with that change,” Franchot said. “More corporations must decide that board diversity is a priority – corporate boards need the right skills and perspectives to effectively communicate with their stakeholders.”

Statistics show board diversification has been slow or has regressed. White directors hold 85 percent of the board seats at the largest 200 S&P 500 companies, and the percentage of those boards with exclusively white directors has increased over the last decade.

Men occupy 80 percent of all S&P 500 board seats. It is also estimated that there are fewer than 10 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender directors among Fortune 500 companies.

The 14 co-signers nationally, many of them longtime leaders on the issue of board diversity, are fiduciaries for pension funds responsible for the retirement security of six million participants and with more than $1 trillion in assets under management.
Comptroller Franchot and the other elected officials will be reaching out to pension fund leaders urging them to join the call for an increased focus on board diversity.

Other joint statement signers:

John Chiang, California State Treasurer
Betty Yee, California State Controller
Kurt Summers, Chicago City Treasurer
Denise Nappier, Connecticut State Treasurer
Michael Frerichs, Illinois State Treasurer
Nancy Kopp, Maryland State Treasurer
Deborah Goldberg, Massachusetts State Treasurer
Scott Stringer, New York City Comptroller
Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller
Ted Wheeler, Oregon State Treasurer
Alan Butkovitz, Philadelphia City Controller
Seth Magaziner, Rhode Island General Treasurer
Dan McAllister, San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector

MEDIA CONTACT: Barbara Sauers, (410) 260-7438 (office), (410) 212-9414 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot Rides Out in Search of Unclaimed Property Owners at Summer Fairs

“Sheriff” Franchot and his trusted steed Abacus ride out looking for owners of Unclaimed Property at fairs and festivals throughout Maryland this summer and fall.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 31, 2016) – Sheriff Franchot, a.k.a. Comptroller Peter Franchot, and his trusted steed Abacus are hitting the trail in search of the rightful owners of abandoned bank accounts, security deposits, insurance benefits, and safe deposit boxes. They’re planning stops with agency staff at local fairs and festivals this summer and fall to help reunite Marylanders with Unclaimed Property accounts worth more than $1 billion.

“I’m saddling up Abacus and we’re riding out to find Marylanders to reunite them with money owed to them,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Right now, my office has more than one million accounts worth more than $1 billion.”

Last summer, more than 4,200 people discovered and received more than $485,500 in unclaimed funds after visiting the agency’s booth at fairs and festivals. One visitor to the Maryland State Fair discovered an unexpected windfall of $13,204. There were similar occurrences at the Montgomery County Fair, where someone found $23,036, and at the 50+ Expo in Howard County, where an attendee claimed $35,186.

Each spring, a list of new accounts is published and distributed in local newspapers statewide. Taking a creative approach to raising awareness about the Unclaimed Property program, Comptroller Franchot appears on this year’s cover of the insert as Sheriff Franchot. Alongside him in a promotional video is his trusted quarter horse, Abacus, heading out throughout the state in search of Unclaimed Property recipients.

Financial institutions, insurance companies and corporations are required by law to notify the Comptroller’s Office of any property that has gone unclaimed, or without activity, for more than three years. Once reported to the agency, staff works to locate the rightful owners to match them with their property. Funds are available to be claimed at any time, with no statute of limitations.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the Comptroller’s Office honored nearly 56,000 claims totaling more than $66 million. Since 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $450 million in Unclaimed Property. To search the Unclaimed Property database online, visit www.marylandtaxes.com.

LIST OF UPCOMING FAIRS AND FESTIVALS 2016
African American Heritage Festival
July 2-3
M&T Bank Stadium (Lots B &C)
1101 South Russell St.
Baltimore, MD

Allegany County Fair
July 16-23
Allegany County Fairgrounds
11490 Moss Ave.
Cumberland, MD

Montgomery County Fair
August 12-20
16 Chestnut St.
Gaithersburg, MD

Maryland State Fair
August 26 to September 5
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

Prince George’s County Fair
September 8-11
Show Place Arena
14900 Pennsylvania Ave.
Upper Marlboro, MD

Anne Arundel County Fair
September 14-18
Route 178
1450 Generals Highway
Crownsville, MD

Frederick County-Great Frederick Fair
September 16-24
797 E. Patrick St.
Frederick, MD

50+ Expo
October 31
Wilde Lake High School
5460 Trumpeter Road
Columbia, MD

Senior Expo/Baby Boomer Expo
October 26-27
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

MEDIA CONTACT: Barbara Sauers, (410) 260-7438 (office), (410) 212-9414 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot’s IT Shield Against Fraudulent Returns Touted as Superior State Program

Fraud Identifying Model Honored at Trade Journal Meeting

Joining Comptroller Peter Franchot, center, in accepting the award are from left: Assistant Director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates (BRE) David Van Remoortere; BRE Director Andrew Schaufele; Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi; IT Assistant Director Robin Aro; and Kathy Henry, manager of the Special Projects Section in the Revenue Administration Division.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 24, 2016) – The Maryland Comptroller’s Office was one of the winners of a “StateScoop 50 Award” in the category of State IT Program announced earlier this month, for devising a computerized sleuthing system to identify tax returns that likely are fraudulent. Catching fraudulent returns before paying out tax refunds has saved Maryland taxpayers millions of dollars and has also freed up tax examiners to help taxpayers working on legitimate returns.

“I’m extremely proud of my team of experts working to catch fraudsters, and in the process, protecting the people of Maryland. This well-deserved award is for designing the technological equivalent of a better mousetrap,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “We will continue to get better and better at stopping fraud – and the con artists who think they can get away with it should be on notice.”

The StateScoop 50 Awards “highlight the best and brightest in the state IT community,” the organization reported. The awards “honor innovators, innovative initiatives and up-and-coming leaders in state and local government.” Recipients were selected in an online vote open to anyone and marketed to state and local government IT professionals. More than 80,000 votes were cast.

The winners were honored May 4 with a reception at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore during the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference.

The Office of the Comptroller “red flagged” fraudulent tax returns using a new set of identifying metrics that improved the accuracy performance significantly – meaning that returns the system flagged as fraudulent continued to be labeled fraudulent after individual review by expert examiners. Use of the new strategy also enabled the agency to identify more than 60 tax preparation firms sending a high number of questionable returns. Those firms were then informed that the agency no longer would process returns from them.

StateScoop provides news on state IT activities on its website. It is part of Scoop News Group, which also publishes FedScoop and EdScoop. For more information about the awards, see StateScoop on the web at www.StateScoop.com.

CONTACT: Peter Hamm, 410-260-7060 (office) or 443-414-3083 (cell)