Comptroller Franchot Warns Maryland Taxpayers of Tax Phone Scams

Taxpayers Advised Not to Respond to Suspicious Calls

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 13, 2016) – With the 2016 tax filing season under way, Comptroller Peter Franchot wants to remind taxpayers to safeguard their personal information by being alert to phone solicitation scams aimed at getting their money and personal information.

The Comptroller’s Office recently received calls from concerned taxpayers about receiving phone calls from someone claiming to work for the State of Maryland. These scammers tell taxpayers they owe large sums of money, demand payment and threatened police arrest if the callers don’t comply.

“I want to assure taxpayers that phone calls like this are scams. The Comptroller’s Office does not initiate phone calls or emails asking for confidential information, demanding money or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs),” Comptroller Franchot said. “If you get a phone call like this, please call 1-800-MD-TAXES or email my office at mdcomptroller@comp.state.md.us and let us know about it as soon as possible.”

The Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division investigates suspicious activity reported by taxpayers. Comptroller Franchot’s top legislative priority this year is the Taxpayer Protection Act, which provides greater tools to prevent fraud and protect taxpayers.
The Maryland Comptoller’s Office, like the Internal Revenue Service, will never:

• Call to demand immediate payment, nor call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
• Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
• Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

“Please be careful of your personal information, and be sure to tell your friends and neighbors to be careful of any suspicious calls,” the Comptroller said.

Media Contact: Vicki Fisher, 410-260-7816 (office) and 443-534-6259 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot Accepting Nominations for the 2016 Silver Hammer Award

Comptroller to Recognize Public Schools Demonstrating Superior Maintenance

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 6, 2016) – Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that his office is accepting nominations for the Silver Hammer Award through February 15, 2016. Established in 2010 to recognize schools for money-saving initiatives and superior maintenance, the award is presented in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. Maryland educators and residents may nominate a school in their district that has shown the greatest improvement over the last year.

“In these challenging economic times, we simply lack the money to meet all new construction priorities,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “The Silver Hammer Award recognizes those schools that go above and beyond to keep our children safe in well-maintained older buildings and to ensure that they have the same positive learning experience as their counterparts in newer schools.”

As a member of the Board of Public Works which approves the state’s annual Public School Construction Program, Comptroller Franchot is proud of the state’s unprecedented capital investments in education. On his visits to public schools, he has seen many examples of effective maintenance.

“A fresh coat of paint, new carpeting, a re-purposed room makes a big difference in the educational experience for students and educators and demonstrates a sense of pride and commitment to the community,” the Comptroller said. “Research has shown the positive impact a clean, attractive and comfortable school setting has on student performance.”

Comptroller Franchot will present the award to recipients staring in the spring. Nomination forms must be received by Feb. 15, 2016.

MEDIA CONTACT: Vicki Fisher, 410-260-7816 (office) 443-534-6259 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot Announces Opening of 2016 Tax Filing Season

Individual Tax Returns Will Begin Processing January 19, Business Returns Will Begin Processing January 9

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot speaks to employees being trained in the Revenue Administration Division to help answer taxpayer questions during the 2016 Tax Filing Season.

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 5, 2016) – Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that Maryland will begin processing personal income tax returns for Tax Year 2015 on January 19, 2016, the same day the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins accepting returns. Business tax returns will be accepted and processing will begin January 9, 2016.

“Processing claims promptly and returning taxpayer refunds immediately is my number one priority as Comptroller,” Franchot said. “I’m very proud of the agency’s long-standing reputation as a national leader in efficiently getting refunds back into the hands of taxpayers and my office looks forward to another successful tax season.”

The 2016 tax return filing deadline is Monday, April 18, the same as the IRS deadline. 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 CONTACT: Barbara Sauers 410-260-7438 (office), 414-212-9414 (cell)

Franchot: Ending Alcohol Monopoly Would Add $193.7 Million, 1,364 New Jobs to Local Economy

Comptroller Released New Study Conducted by State’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates

Silver Spring, Md. (December 22, 2015) – Citing benefits to Montgomery County consumers and small businesses, Comptroller Peter Franchot announced the findings of a Bureau of Revenue Estimates study that examined the economic impact that private sector competition would have on sales and distribution of alcohol in Montgomery County during a press event this morning at Jackie’s Restaurant in Silver Spring.

“This study provides empirical confirmation of what consumers and small businesses have been saying for years: that the County’s alcohol monopoly is bad for consumers, for small businesses and for our local economy,” Comptroller Franchot said. “It’s long overdue that we leave this Prohibition-era system in the era of Prohibition, so we can bring this desperately-needed economic activity back into our communities, create quality jobs, and allow adult consumers, not politicians, to make their own decisions when it comes to purchasing alcohol.”

The study found that removing the marketplace barriers that result from county control over retail sales of liquor and wholesale distribution of alcoholic products would generate an estimate $193.7 million in new economic activity within the state, in addition to creating 1,364 jobs, and generating $52.5 million in new wages. When fully implemented, the new activity and income would generate an estimated $22.8 million in state and local tax revenue.

Under current law, wholesale purchases of alcoholic beverages in Montgomery County can only be made through the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) and off-premise distilled spirits can be purchased at a retail store operated by the county agency. The study found that over 40 percent of county residents work outside the county and, not coincidentally, consumption of alcohol in the county is 41 percent lower than the statewide average, reflecting the fact that Montgomery County consumers are purchasing their alcohol outside the county, most notably, in the District of Columbia.

Joining the Comptroller at the press event was Del. Bill Frick; Jackie Greenbaum, owner of Jackie’s Restaurant; Brian Vasile, owner of Brickside Restaurant in Bethesda; Andrew Schaufele, director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates; Jane Redicker, president and CEO of Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce; Gianne Italiano, president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce; and other business and civic leaders.

View the Economic Impact Analysis here

Media Contact: Barbara Sauers, 410-260-7438, office; 410-212-9414, cell

 

Statement of Comptroller Peter Franchot Regarding Updated Revenue Estimates

Annapolis, Md. (December 15, 2015) – The Board of Revenue Estimates met today to write up revenue projections $31.4 million for Fiscal Year 2016 and $60.1 million for Fiscal Year 2017. As chairman of the Board, Comptroller Peter Franchot, released the following statement:

“We are voting to write up our revenue projections $31.4 million for Fiscal Year 2016 and $60.1 million for Fiscal Year 2017.

“Coming on the heels of our action to write up expected revenues for the current and next fiscal year by $212.2 million in September, and on closing the books on Fiscal Year 2015 with a fund balance of $295 million, today’s action provides an opportunity for restrained optimism, and it certainly serves as positive news with respect to the state budget, just as the Governor and General Assembly prepare for the upcoming Legislative Session.

‘However, it’s important that today’s action be taken in the context of the broader economy – the real Maryland economy – not exclusively on what’s happening with the state budget, but what’s actually going on with the budgets of Maryland families and small businesses.

“While we are revising expectations for income tax receipts by nearly $34 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and $100 million in Fiscal Year 2017, we are, simultaneously, writing down withholding receipts by $64 million for the same two fiscal years.

“Rather than mere numbers being revised in one direction or another, this is a window into the economic realities facing Maryland families at the moment. In essence, non-wage income earners – generally associated with wealthier taxpayers – are doing better than our very modest prior expectations. But actual wage earners, predominantly Maryland’s middle class, are faring worse, with average wage growth standing at a disappointing rate of 2.4 percent, well below Maryland’s historical standards.

“That’s why it should be no surprise that in a consumer-driven economy, the lack of wages has led to weakness in retail sales, evidenced by the fact that expected sales and use tax receipts are being written-down by more than $75 million for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017.

“So, while we can rightfully take some measure of relief that state revenues are headed in a positive direction, the empirical evidence buried in this report tells the same story I continue to hear anecdotally as I travel throughout the State: This economic recovery hasn’t felt like a recovery at all for far too many Maryland families and small businesses.

“With higher paid and higher skilled jobs from before the recession now being replaced with lower skilled and lower paid alternatives, the unemployment numbers aren’t telling the full story: workers are bringing home the same or less pay as their living costs are rising, leaving them with less disposable income to spend, and in our consumer-powered economy, that in turn means that far too many businesses – especially small, local businesses – are struggling to survive as consumers rein in discretionary spending.

“Without a doubt, this continues to be the slowest and most anemic economic recovery of our lifetimes, and it is unrealistic for us to expect a return to pre-recession levels of economic growth. The mere fact that we are still using the term “recovery” more than seven years after the depths of the Great Recession demonstrates just how challenging and extraordinary these economic times remain.

“Now is certainly not the time to take a victory lap over snippets of positive news with the state budget when there remains so many significant challenges facing Maryland families and small businesses. And it’s not a time to set unrealistic expectations based on top-line revenue figures without the context of the serious economic challenges that lie beneath the surface.

“These tepid levels of growth have become our “new normal” and we need to make policy decisions that reflect that reality, recognizing that the revenue numbers may be revised up, but the underlying challenges for consumers and small businesses remain, without any indication that we’ll be returning to Maryland’s historical levels of growth any time soon, if at all. That means being prudent when making spending decisions in the months ahead. It means avoiding an unsustainable accumulation of debt with the false expectation that revenues will rise fast enough to pay escalating payments. And it especially means avoiding any proposals that would take more money out of the pockets of consumers who are already reluctant to put money back into the Maryland economy.

“We have to establish a stable and predictable business climate where consumers have disposable income and the confidence to spend it, and where employers are comfortable to invest capital and create jobs. If we heed this report within the proper context, maintain a cautious mindset and focus squarely on our essential priorities that solve fiscal challenges without incurring unaffordable future obligations, we have an opportunity to re-instill confidence in the Maryland economy.”

View December 2015 Updated Revenue Estimates here

Media Contact: Andrew Friedson, (410) 260-7060 (office) 443-414-3083 (cell)

Franchot Proposes Taxpayer Protection Act to Strengthen Enforcement of Tax Fraud, Identity Theft

Comptroller Discussed Legislation at Roundtable and at Annual MACPA Luncheon

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (December 1, 2015) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced that he will be introducing legislation in January called The Taxpayer Protection Act to better protect Maryland taxpayers from tax fraud and identity theft at a roundtable discussion with media today in the Assembly Room of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building. He later spoke to the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants at their annual luncheon in Baltimore where the proposed legislation was the main focus of his remarks.

“The Taxpayer Protection Act will improve our ability to prevent tax fraud, to expand our efforts to protect taxpayer information and to increase the authority of our field enforcement agents to effectively hold fraudulent filers and preparers accountable,” said Comptroller Franchot, as the state’s chief tax collector. “The new legislation will strengthen my agency’s ability to enforce Maryland’s Tax Code and protect Maryland taxpayers.”

Since taking office in 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has stopped nearly $152 million in tax fraud. The proposed legislation will enhance the tools available to the Comptroller and his staff of highly-skilled tax and enforcement professionals to detect and prevent tax fraud. Among the key provisions of the legislation are to make major tax crimes a felony and to extend the statute of limitations for tax crimes to six years from the current three years to allow sufficient time to properly investigate and charge in fraud cases in what are commonly highly sophisticated schemes.

“The Taxpayer Protection Act is absolutely critical to protect Maryland taxpayers and to combat fraud, and I am calling on my colleagues in the General Assembly to pass this critical piece of legislation in the next session,” Franchot said. “Passage of this act will allow my agency to keep pace with rapidly-increasing fraud schemes and fast-changing threats to sensitive data.”

The bill also will:

• Change major criminal tax offenses to felony charges from misdemeanors;
• Add a fraudulent return preparer penalty;
• Make it a felony for anyone to try to evade or defeat any tax imposed under the Tax General Article and impose a penalty upon conviction of the offense; and,
• Provide legal authority to issue injunctions against preparers under investigation for fraud to protect consumers while investigations are ongoing.

The introduction of The Taxpayer Protection Act is just the latest in a series of actions that Comptroller Franchot has taken to combat fraud. During the past nine years, the Comptroller’s Office has made unprecedented investments in dedicated personnel and advanced technology to detect and prevent tax fraud. Earlier this month, the Comptroller signed a Memorandum of Understanding in collaboration with the Internal Revenue Service, State Departments of Revenue, Tax Industry Electronic Return Transmission and related financial service organizations to protect taxpayers from the burdens associated with identity theft and refund fraud.

“As Comptroller, my top priority is to make sure that everyone is playing by the rules and paying their fair share, and to aggressively go after those who don’t.”

Taxpayer Protection Act Poster PDF

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

Comptroller Franchot Signs MOU to Protect Taxpayers from Identity Theft and Refund Fraud

Comptroller Joins Collaborative Effort with IRS, State Departments of Revenue
 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 13, 2015) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in collaboration with the Internal Revenue Service, State Departments of Revenue, Tax Industry Electronic Return Transmission and related financial services organizations to protect taxpayers from the burdens associated with identity theft and refund fraud.

“This is an important step in protecting Maryland taxpayers,” said Comptroller Franchot, as the state’s chief tax collector. “Securing taxpayer information is a top priority of my office, and we owe it to law-abiding citizens to catch and prosecute tax fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”

The MOU will facilitate information sharing and other efforts to establish robust security measures and identity theft, refund fraud detection and prevention practices for electronic filing of federal and state income tax returns. The initiative aims to combat tax-related refund fraud and identity theft through enhanced communication and information sharing among parties involved in the electronic filing and processing of federal and state income tax returns.

As it has done for years now, the agency’s fraud detection team uses high-tech methods to scrutinize returns for questionable or fraudulent information before they are processed. The Comptroller’s Office has already been working collaboratively with the Internal Revenue Service, the Postal Inspector and out-of-state revenue and law enforcement agencies to share information and identify and prevent fraud multi-state schemes.

MEDIA CONTACT: Vicki Fisher 410-260-7816 (office), 443-534-6259 (cell)

Comptroller Franchot to Shop Maryland for the Holidays at Local Shops and Stores

Annual Statewide Holiday Tour to Promote Local Retailers and Eateries

Annapolis, Md. (November 12, 2015) – With Black Friday sales only a couple weeks away, Marylanders already are busily checking off items on their holiday shopping lists. Comptroller Peter Franchot once again is encouraging residents to Shop Maryland for the Holidays as he begins his 2015 holiday shopping tour at locations throughout the state beginning Tuesday, November 17.

“Shopping at local businesses supports the more than 500,000 of our friends and neighbors who work in Maryland’s retail sector,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Holidays are about making memories with friends and family and giving back to our communities. As we head into the holiday season, what better way to spread holiday cheer and goodwill than patronizing the many local shops and cafes that serve as the bedrock of our local communities?”

The Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) says the holiday shopping season is important to retailers in communities throughout the state.

“The Maryland Retailers Association is thrilled to join Comptroller Franchot on his statewide tour encouraging Marylanders to shop local,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. “In addition to creating jobs and providing much needed tax revenue to the state, retailers give back to communities and stabilize neighborhoods. Shopping local is important for many reasons and we hope Marylanders will keep this in mind, not just for the holidays, but year-round.”

The Comptroller will be joined by Ms. Tolle on behalf of the Maryland Retailers Association for some of the stops as well as elected, business and community leaders as he strolls through the central business districts of each community.

The tour includes:
• Baltimore City, November 17
• Annapolis, November 18
• Riverdale, Prince George’s County, November 20
• Cumberland and Frederick, Allegany and Frederick Counties respectively, December 3
• Towson area, Baltimore County, December 7
• Easton and Cambridge, Talbot and Dorchester Counties respectively, December 11
• Salisbury, Wicomico County, December 14.
Comptroller Franchot reminds consumers that in-state shopping puts citizens’ hard-earned money back into their communities and supports local businesses that employ friends and neighbors. He also believes “shopping locally gets consumers the best product, service and experience for their dollar.”

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

 

Comptroller Franchot Reminds Marylanders Tax Amnesty Program Deadline is Friday

Taxpayers Have Until October 30 to Meet Tax Amnesty Deadline

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 28, 2015) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot reminds delinquent taxpayers that they have until Friday, October 30, 2015 to take advantage of Maryland’s “Act Now, Pay Now” amnesty period. The Tax Amnesty program, enacted by the General Assembly, gives delinquent taxpayers a final opportunity to pay their Maryland tax liability with only half of the interest owed.

“There are only three days left to take advantage of this opportunity for tax delinquents to settle any outstanding liabilities,” Comptroller Franchot said.

Taxpayers who failed to file a required return or pay a tax imposed on or before December 31, 2014, may file an application with the Comptroller requesting a waiver of all civil penalties (except for previously assessed fraud penalties) and one-half interest due. The waivers will be granted for all taxpayers who file their applications on time and meet the terms of the program. Payments made prior to September 1 are not eligible for the tax amnesty program.

Personal income tax, fiduciary income tax, pass-through entity nonresident income tax, corporate income tax, employer withholding tax, sales and use tax and admissions and amusement tax are all eligible for amnesty. Taxpayers who submit an application may either pay their outstanding debts in full with their application or include 10 percent of the amnesty amount due with their application, and set up a payment plan before October 30, 2015. Taxpayers who choose the payment plan must complete the terms of the agreement on or before December 31, 2016.

The amnesty application form is accessible at www.marylandtaxes.com, or taxpayers may request a form by calling 1-800-MDTAXES or 410-260-7980 from Central Maryland. Email requests may also be sent to: amnesty@comp.state.md.us or by regular mail to: Maryland Tax Amnesty, Comptroller of Maryland, P.O. Box 2031, Annapolis, MD 21404-2031. Additionally, completed applications may be mailed to the address above or dropped off at any of the 12 local Comptroller offices.

An interactive tax amnesty calculator is available online to help taxpayers determine the amount of tax owed. Taxpayers with an outstanding liability can determine their amnesty liability through the agency’s Amnesty BillPay application by using the notice number on bills up to six months old.

For more information and a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.marylandtaxes.com.

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

 

Comptroller Franchot Reminds Marylanders Tax Amnesty Program Deadline is Oct. 30th

Enacted by Md. General Assembly; Final Weeks for Taxpayers to Take Advantage

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 15, 2015) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot reminds delinquent taxpayers that they have until October 30, 2015 to take advantage of Maryland’s “Act Now, Pay Now” amnesty period. The Tax Amnesty program, enacted by the General Assembly, gives delinquent taxpayers one final opportunity to pay their Maryland tax liability with only half of the interest owed.

“It’s important for Marylanders to do the right thing and fulfill their legal obligations,” said Comptroller Franchot. “This is a rare opportunity for tax delinquents to settle any outstanding liabilities.”

Taxpayers who failed to file a required return or pay a tax imposed on or before December 31, 2014 may file an application with the Comptroller requesting a waiver of all civil penalties (except for previously assessed fraud penalties) and one-half interest due. The waivers will be granted for all taxpayers who file their applications on time and meet the terms of the program. Payments made prior to September 1 are not eligible for the tax amnesty program.

The following taxes are eligible for amnesty:
•Personal income tax
•Fiduciary income tax
•Pass-through entity nonresident income tax
•Corporate income tax
•Employer withholding tax
•Sales and use tax
•Admissions and amusement tax

Taxpayers who submit an application may either pay their outstanding debts in full with their application or include ten percent of the amnesty amount due with their application, and set up a payment plan before October 30, 2015. Taxpayers who choose the payment plan must complete the terms of the agreement on or before December 31, 2016.

During the amnesty period, a taxpayer may not be charged with a criminal tax offense arising out of any return filed and tax paid, so long as the taxpayer does not have any pending criminal charges in the state courts and is not currently under investigation by the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the State Prosecutor and the Office of the State’s Attorney or any office with Constitutional authority.

Those who took advantage of two previous amnesty programs in 2001 and 2009 are not eligible for the new program. Those who participated in or were eligible to participate in the Delaware Holding Company settlement established by Chapter 577 of 2004 for tax periods prior to tax year 2003 also are not eligible.

The amnesty application form is accessible at www.marylandtaxes.com, or taxpayers may request a form by calling 1-800-MDTAXES or 410-260-7980 from Central Maryland. Email requests may also be sent to: amnesty@comp.state.md.us or by regular mail to: Maryland Tax Amnesty, Comptroller of Maryland, P.O. Box 2031, Annapolis, MD 21404-2031. Additionally, completed applications may be mailed to the address above or dropped off at any of the 12 local Comptroller offices.

An interactive tax amnesty calculator is available online to help taxpayers determine the amount of tax owed. Taxpayers with an outstanding liability can determine their amnesty liability through the agency’s Amnesty BillPay application by using the notice number on bills up to six months old.

For more information and a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.marylandtaxes.com.

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