Franchot to Cross State for Shop Maryland for the Holidays Tour

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 16, 2017) - As the holiday season rapidly approaches, Comptroller Peter Franchot is encouraging Marylanders to Shop Maryland for the Holidays as he begins his 2017 statewide holiday shopping tour in Baltimore County today, November 16. 

“With one in five Marylanders directly or indirectly working in retail, the holiday shopping season is important to retailers throughout the state,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Shopping at a local business helps more than 750,000 of our neighbors and friends who make up Maryland’s retail sector.”

The retail industry contributes more than $46 billion to the state’s economy, making it the top private sector employer. according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

“The Maryland Retailers Association is thrilled to join Comptroller Franchot again on his statewide tour encouraging Marylanders to shop local for the holidays,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “Maryland retailers create jobs, give back to their communities and provide much-needed tax revenue to the state. We continue to hope Marylanders will keep these things in mind when shopping, not just for the holidays, but year-round.”

The Shop Maryland for the Holidays tour will stop in the following cities and towns in every corner of the state:

  • Hunt Valley/Timonium, November 16
  • Bethesda, November 17
  • Hyattsville, November 28
  • Berlin and Cambridge, November 29
  • St. Michaels, December 1
  • Frederick, December 5
  • Annapolis, December 6
  • Hampstead, December 7
  • Cumberland, December 14

Details about each visit will be released several days ahead of the planned stops.

“In-state shopping puts citizens’ hard-earned money back into their communities and supports local businesses that employ friends and neighbors,” said Franchot. “Shopping locally gets consumers the best product, service and experience for their dollar.”

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MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joe Shapiro: 410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (cell)
Alan Brody: 410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (cell)

IRS, Comptroller’s Office, MSATP to Discuss Protection from Tax Thieves

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 14, 2017) – The Internal Revenue Service’s Stakeholder Liaison – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office – and the Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals will join in a National Tax Security Awareness Forum from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 28 at the University of Phoenix, 8830 Stanford Boulevard, Room 128, in Columbia.

“I wholeheartedly applaud this effort to educate our tax professionals in the latest techniques to stop cyber thieves in their tracks and to prevent innocent Marylanders from becoming victims,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “We continue to be vigilant and resolute in our commitment to protect Marylanders’ financial information and the integrity of our tax system.”

Participants will include representatives from the IRS and Maryland Comptroller’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, members of MSATP and the Small Business Administration. The event is open to new and existing small business owners, small business and industry representatives, small business service providers, tax professionals and the news media.

The discussion will center on ways to be aware of cybercriminals using phishing emails to bait victims into divulging sensitive information and W-2 scams that make steal the identity of thousands of employees and businesses. Specific topics will include:

• Data Breach and Data Security
• Don’t Take the Bait
• Identity Theft Awareness and Victim Assistance.

Visit msatp.org or call 1-800-922-9672 to register.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joe Shapiro: jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (cell)

Alan Brody: abrody@comp.state.md.us
410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (cell)

Comptroller Branch Office in Upper Marlboro Closed for Remainder of Monday, August 21

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 21, 2017) – The Comptroller’s Office branch location in the Prince George’s County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro will be closed for the remainder of today due to the lack of air conditioning in the building. Taxpayers may visit Comptroller offices in Greenbelt and in Annapolis at the Revenue Administration Center, which are open with regular hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Taxpayers in need of free state tax assistance can continue to 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: Vicki Fisher – 410-260-7816 (office), 443-534-6259 (cell)

 

Comptroller’s New Greenbelt Branch Office Now Open

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 7, 2017) – Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced that the new Greenbelt Branch Office is now open at Triangle Centre at 6401 Golden Triangle Drive, Suite 100, Greenbelt, MD 20770. The Landover Branch Office closed Friday, June 30.

In March, the Board of Public Works approved a new 10-year lease agreement to make the move possible. The new location will provide more space to serve taxpayers, better signage, convenient parking and access to transit lines.

“The top priority of the professionals working at the Greenbelt office will be to continue to provide quality service focused on helping Marylanders with their tax questions and concerns,” Comptroller Franchot said. “We provide a broad range of services for area taxpayers so they can avoid long trips to our primary offices in Baltimore and Annapolis.”

Taxpayers in need of free state tax assistance 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. They may also visit any branch office with locations across the state.

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.

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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)