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 Franchot Releases Findings as Reform on Tap Task Forces Wraps Up Work

ANNAPOLIS, MD (November 8, 2017) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today released his Maryland Craft Beer: A World Without Limits Report of Findings after a comprehensive look into the brewing, distribution and sales of Maryland craft beer. The report was presented at the final meeting of his Reform on Tap Task Force and after six months of presentations, discussions and fact finding trips throughout the state. The Comptroller will use his findings and the work of the Task Force to craft proposed legislation that will enable Maryland to be the nation’s number-one state for craft brewing and to allow the industry to reach its full potential here in Maryland.

“I am truly very proud of the work that this task force has done over the last several months, and the insights and perspectives from the members have been invaluable in this inclusive and collaborative process,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Since our first meeting, we have traveled across the state, and held eight public and highly-productive meetings and two public town hall meetings. We have succeeded in fulfilling our mission of conducting a top-to-bottom review of our state’s highly dysfunctional beer laws and identifying regulatory and statutory roadblocks that get in the way of the growth and success of the craft beer industry. This Report of Findings is a well-balanced analysis that charts the course for growing our craft beer industry … which, of course, directly benefits our distributors, retailers, and of course, our consumers.”

To read the Comptroller’s full Maryland Craft Beer: A World Without Limits Report of Findings, please click here.

 

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 Extends Certain California Alcohol Permit Expiration Dates

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 3, 2017) – In the wake of recent catastrophic wildfires in California that have devastated businesses of many Maryland alcohol permit holders, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that is he is extending the alcohol permit expiration dates for those impacted California-based companies from October 31 to December 31, 2017.

“The extensive damage caused by these wildfires is hard to comprehend and the loss of life and property is tragic,” said Comptroller Franchot. “My office stands ready to assist affected businesses to ease any burdens we can to help them get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

Additionally, the Comptroller recognizes that wildfires have impacted Maryland Direct Wine Shipper Permit holders, who also might experience difficulty filing their third quarter Maryland Alcohol Tax Returns, which were due October 15. To support those permit holders, the Office of the Comptroller is extending this deadline until January 15, 2018 and will grant a waiver of interest and penalties for the third-quarter returns.

Affected businesses with questions about these extensions can call Patricia Anthony at 410-260-7314 or email her at panthony@comp.state.md.us.

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

 

State Study Confirms Value of Craft Beer Industry to Maryland Economy

BALTIMORE, Md. (October 25, 2017) – Maryland’s craft beer industry had an overall economic impact of $637.6 million and supported or created 6,541 jobs in 2016, according to an economic impact study conducted by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates that was released during today’s Reform on Tap Task Force meeting.

The study found that when the sale and distribution activity of non-Maryland craft beer is included in the projection, the estimated economic impact grew to $802.7 million. The industry contributed $53.1 million in state and local revenues and $55.3 million in federal revenues, which directly supports investments in education, public safety, transportation and the environment.

“The craft beer industry is one of our state’s most important and fastest growing economic engines. The men and women at the forefront of this dynamic industry are creating good-paying jobs, strengthening local economies and attracting tourists to communities in every corner of our state, ” said Comptroller Peter Franchot, who created the Reform on Tap Task Force in April to modernize the state’s antiquated laws governing the manufacturing, distribution and sale of Maryland craft beer.

“However, the fact that we lag so far behind our neighboring states is a reminder that we can do so much better. Flying Dog’s recent announcement that they will postpone plans to expand their brewery operations in Frederick underscore the severe consequences of a statutory and regulatory environment that impedes the growth and success of this industry. That is why it is critical that we reform, from top-to-bottom, the outdated laws that have restricted the growth of this industry for too long.”

In 2016, Maryland craft breweries directly employed 430 workers, and had an indirect and induced effect on 264 jobs – yielding a total of $28.4 million in wages and generating $143.7 million in economic output, according to the study.

Both alcohol distributors and retailers (bars and restaurants) also greatly benefited from Maryland’s craft brewers, with a direct, indirect and induced effect on almost 6,000 jobs, about $200 million in labor income and nearly $500 million in economic activity, the report found.

The analysis also indicates that Maryland’s craft beer industry has room to grow. That is demonstrated most clearly by the state’s status as a net importer of craft beer, meaning that the state consumes more craft beer (275,000 barrels) than it produces (247,000 barrels).

“This study reveals not only the substantial size of this industry in its current status, but also that, when various comparative metrics are taken into account, the industry has considerable room to grow,” said Andrew Schaufele, director of the Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates.

Furthermore, the National Brewers Association finds that Maryland trails other states, ranking 47th in economic impact, 36th in number of breweries and 25th in gallons produced per adult aged 21 years and over. Although production among Maryland craft brewers has steadily increased at an annual rate of 15 percent over the past five years, it has lagged behind the national average of 18 percent.

To read the full report of the Economic Impact of Maryland’s Craft Beer Industry prepared by the Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates, please click here.

 

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

 

Gifts to Charity: Six Facts About Written Acknowledgements

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 19, 2018) — Throughout the year, many taxpayers contribute money or gifts to qualified organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Taxpayers who plan to claim a charitable deduction on their tax return must do two things:

• Have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contributions.
• Get a written acknowledgment from the charity for any single donation of $250 or more.

Here are six things for taxpayers to remember about these donations and written acknowledgements:
Taxpayers who make single donations of $250 or more to a charity must have one of the following:
o A separate acknowledgment from the organization for each donation of $250 or more.
o One acknowledgment from the organization listing the amount and date of each contribution of $250 or more.
The $250 threshold doesn’t mean a taxpayer adds up separate contributions of less than $250 throughout the year.
o For example, if someone gave a $25 offering to their church each week, they don’t need an acknowledgement from the church, even though their contributions for the year are more than $250.
Contributions made by payroll deduction are treated as separate contributions for each pay period.
If a taxpayer makes a payment that is partly for goods and services, their deductible contribution is the amount of the payment that is more than the value of those goods and services.
A taxpayer must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of these two dates:
o The date they file their return for the year in which they make the contribution.
o The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
If the acknowledgment doesn’t show the date of the contribution, the taxpayers must also have a bank record or receipt that does show the date.

More Information:
Can I Deduct My Charitable Contributions?
Publication 526, Charitable Contributions
Tax Topic 506, Charitable Contributions
Publication 1771, Charitable Contributions Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements

Extension Filers: Deadline is Monday, Oct. 16

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 3, 2017) – Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers who filed for an extension and face an Oct. 16 filing deadline: The adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from their 2015 return may be needed to electronically file their 2016 tax return.

For those taxpayers who have a valid extension and are in or affected by a federally declared disaster area may be allowed more time to file. Currently, taxpayers impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as people in parts of Michigan and West Virginia qualify for this relief. See the disaster relief page on IRS.gov for details.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years. Prior year tax returns are even more important as the IRS makes changes to protect taxpayers and authenticate their identity.

Extension filers should plan ahead if they are using a software product for the first time. They should have kept a copy of their 2015 tax return or if not, will need to order a tax transcript, a process that may take five to 10 calendar days. The AGI is clearly labeled on both the tax return and the transcript.

Taxpayers who prepare their own electronic tax returns are required to electronically sign and validate their return. Using an electronic filing PIN is no longer an option. To authenticate their identities, taxpayers also will need to enter either of two items: Their prior-year AGI or their prior-year self-select PIN and their date of birth. If married filing jointly, both taxpayers must authenticate their identities with this information.

Generally, tax-preparation software automatically generates the prior-year AGI and/or self-select PIN for returning customers. However, taxpayers who are new to a software product must enter the prior-year AGI or prior-year self-select PIN themselves.

How to find AGI; plan ahead if a mailed transcript needed

The adjusted gross income is gross income minus certain adjustments. On 2015 tax returns, the AGI is found on line 37 of Form 1040; line 21 on Form 1040A and line 4 on Form 1040EZ. Taxpayers who e-filed and did not keep a copy of their original 2015 tax return may be able to return to their prior-year software provider or tax preparer to obtain a copy.

Those who lack access to their prior-year tax returns also may go to irs.gov/transcript and use Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail. A transcript is a summary of the tax return or tax account. There are various types of transcripts, but the Tax Return Transcript works best. Look for the “Adjusted Gross Income” amount on the transcript.

Taxpayers must pass Secure Access authentication in order to access Get Transcript Online and immediately access their transcripts. Those who cannot pass Secure Access authentication should use Get Transcript by Mail or call 1-800-908-9946, and a transcript will be delivered to their home address within five to 10 calendar days.

IRS Reminder for Parents, Students: Check Out College Tax Benefits

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 26, 2017) ― With school now in session, the Internal Revenue Service reminds parents and students about tax benefits that can help with the expense of higher education. Two college tax credits apply to students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school. Eligible students include the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

• The American Opportunity Tax Credit, (AOTC) can be worth a maximum annual benefit of $2,500 per eligible student. The credit is only available for the first four years at an eligible college or vocational school for students pursuing a degree or another recognized education credential. Taxpayers can claim the AOTC for a student enrolled in the first three months of 2018 as long as they paid qualified expenses in 2017.

Lifetime Learning Credit

• The Lifetime Learning Credit, (LLC) can have a maximum benefit of up to $2,000 per tax return for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the AOTC, the limit on the LLC applies to each tax return rather than to each student. The course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. The credit is available for an unlimited number of tax years.

To claim the AOTC or LLC, use Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits). Additionally, if claiming the AOTC, the law requires taxpayers to include the school’s Employer Identification Number on this form.
Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, is required to be eligible for an education benefit. Students receive this form from the school they attended. There are exceptions for some students.

Other education benefits

Other education-related tax benefits that may help parents and students are:
• Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.
• Scholarship and fellowship grants. Generally, these are tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.

• Savings bonds used to pay for college. Though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years of age.

• Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, are used by many families to prepay or save for a child’s college education. Contributions to a 529 plan are not deductible, but earnings are not subject to federal tax when used for the qualified education expenses.

To help determine eligibility for these benefits, taxpayers should use tools on the Education Credits Web page and IRS Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov.

Keep A Copy of Tax Returns

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return for at least three years. Copies of tax returns may be needed for many reasons. If applying for college financial aid, a tax transcript may be all that is needed. A tax transcript summarizes return information and includes adjusted gross income. Get one from the IRS for free.

The quickest way to get a copy of a tax transcript is to use the Get Transcript application. After verifying identity, taxpayers can view and print their transcript immediately online. The online application includes a robust identity verification process. Those who can’t pass the verification must request the transcript be mailed. This takes five to 10 days, so plan ahead and request the transcript early.

Comptroller Franchot’s Statement on Board of Revenue Estimates September Revisions

Comptroller Peter Franchot, chairman of the Board of Revenue Estimates (second from left), along with (from right) Marc Nicole, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, Chief Deputy Treasurer Bernadette T. Benik and Andrew Schaufele, director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates and executive secretary of the board, met Wednesday afternoon in the Assembly Room of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 20, 2017) – Today, the Board of Revenue Estimates voted to reduce the revenue projections for the State of Maryland for Fiscal Year 2018 by $53 million, representing a 0.3 percent decrease over prior estimates. The Board also unveiled the first official estimates for fiscal year 2019, which is projected to be $17.6 billion, representing a $73.5 million reduction.

The actions are largely driven by weaker-than-anticipated sales tax revenues, which are the result of sluggish income growth, changing buying habits with more online purchases being made and tepid consumer confidence stemming from uncertainty about potential federal government cuts and other actions.
Following are Comptroller Franchot’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“This action comes just weeks after we closed the books on Fiscal Year 2017 with $90 million above our original projections, which provides reason for restrained optimism.
“The proposed reductions in FY 2018 and FY 2019’s estimates are primarily influenced by the continued weak growth in sales and use tax revenue, and a modestly reduced outlook for average wage growth in Maryland. In this revision, the largest write-down is the sales and use tax projected revenues, which underscores the fact that consumer spending remains unpredictable.

“Following a very brief but relatively successful holiday season, sales tax revenue declined this past spring. Over the last several fiscal years, we’ve barely attained 2% growth in sales and use tax revenues. Our prior estimates had generally held that the State would at least see 3% to 3.5% growth. But we know these figures are influenced in large part by the meager income growth that we continue to experience, and the political uncertainties coming out of Washington.

“As we continue to weather these uncertain economic conditions, Maryland working families are understandably putting more money in the piggy bank instead of spending on things they want, instead of need.

“In this consumer-powered economy, far too many businesses – and in particular, small and locally-owned businesses that are the backbone of the Maryland economy — are struggling to survive at a time when consumers are reining in their discretionary spending.

“We continue to experience the slowest and most tentative economic recovery of our lifetimes. And as I’ve said in the past, I think that it would be imprudent to expect a return to pre-recessionary patterns of economic expansion.

“To be prepared for the fiscal uncertainties of the future, I believe fiscal policymakers need to consider this rate of growth in our revenues as the “new normal,” if you will. And I would encourage my fellow state leaders to adopt this approach when making spending and fiscal policy decisions in the months ahead.”

“I do want to tip my hat to Governor Hogan and to the General Assembly for continuing to exercise fiscal restraint and for recognizing the fiscal and economic realities that our state faces today. More than anything else — and I know both the Governor and the General Assembly are in bipartisan agreement on this — we must establish a business climate that is characterized by stability and predictability, one in which employers feel comfortable investing capital and creating good-paying, long-term jobs.

“We must avoid decisions that take more money out of the pockets of consumers who are already reluctant to put money back into the Maryland economy, which is why we need to continue to reject any proposals that would increase or create new taxes and fees.

“We need to provide some stability and relief for our working-class citizens and small businesses. And furthermore, we must remain smart and forward-thinking about how we spend limited taxpayer dollars and resist adding to our existing state debt — recognizing the fact that we simply cannot sustain continued debt accumulation that can be dangerous to our fiscal stability in the years ahead.

“The fiscal realities we face require us to invest in the things that we need, and forego many of the things that we simply want. This is the same principle that so many households and business owners use when planning and executing their own budgets — and we have a solemn responsibility to do the same as their elected representatives.

“I am confident that if we continue on the current path of fiscal prudence, we will be well-positioned to emerge from these economic and fiscal challenges stronger than before. And we will be properly prepared to weather future disturbances in our economy.”

View the data here.

Media contacts: Joe Shapiro, 410-260-7305 (office) 443-871-2244 (cell)
Alan Brody 410-260-6346 (office) 443-924-1473 (cell)

 

Comptroller’s Call Center Approved By Board of Public Works

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 20, 2017) – Reinforcing his commitment to exceptional taxpayer service, Comptroller Franchot today thanked his Board of Public Works colleagues for their unanimous approval of the lease agreement for his office’s new customer call center, which will open in Hagerstown in early January, in time for the start of the 2018 tax filing season. The new center will be located at Franklin Plaza, 33 W. Franklin Street, in downtown Hagerstown. It will enhance the ability of the Maryland Comptroller’s Office to provide better customer service while adding 12 full-time jobs to the area’s economy.

“I am very proud of my Office’s longstanding reputation for respectful, responsive and results-oriented customer service,” said Comptroller Franchot. “By providing these additional phone lines and additional agents, our new call center will further enhance our ability to serve taxpayers throughout the state. We also are thrilled to bring new jobs and economic activity to downtown Hagerstown and to be a part of the city’s ongoing renaissance. I would like to thank my Board of Public Works colleagues – Governor Hogan and Treasurer Kopp – for their unanimous and enthusiastic support of this exciting new initiative.”

The new center’s staff will assist Marylanders with tax questions and tax payment options. The agency’s Taxpayer Services unit in Annapolis typically swells from 35 to 75 employees during the height of the tax season to handle the volume of taxpayer inquiries. Last January, the agency opened its first remote call center in Salisbury to lend greater assistance to taxpayers from all regions of the state. The new Hagerstown call center will continue the Comptroller’s efforts to respond quickly and effectively to taxpayers’ queries.

City and county leaders expressed appreciation for the new call center and applauded today’s action.

“The city is excited to have the Comptroller’s new Call Center in downtown Hagerstown, and these new jobs will be a great contribution to our local economy,” said Mayor Bob Bruchey. “This call center will provide an important service to people across Maryland who have important tax questions, and having the call center in downtown Hagerstown will help make the process more efficient and effective for everyone.”

“Once again, Comptroller Franchot working with Governor Hogan has demonstrated that not only does he seek efficiency with taxpayer funds, but also his agency focuses on excellent customer service,” said State Senator Andrew Serafini, District 2. “His commitment to downtown Hagerstown and our efforts for revitalization is truly appreciated by our local community.”

“We say congratulations, and I want to thank Mr. Franchot for providing job opportunities to Washington County,” said Washington County Commission President Terry L. Baker. “We love Peter Franchot in Washington County and we thank him for everything he does for us.”

The approval of this latest call center comes just months after the Office of the Comptroller opened a new regional branch office in Hagerstown. That office, located in the Crystal Building at 1850 Dual Highway, is open to the public on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Training for the new hires will begin at the Hagerstown office this fall. Anyone interested in one of the positions may go to https://www.jobaps.com/MD/ for more information and to apply.

Media Contacts: Joseph Shapiro, 410-260-7305 (office), 443-871-2244 (cell)
Alan Brody, 410-6346 (office), 443-924-1473 (cell)