As the clock struck midnight, the Maryland General Assembly closed the final day of its 2016 legislative session on April 11. Known as “Sine Die,” the last day of the 90-day legislative season closes with a flurry of activity. MACPA CEO Tom Hood and Manager of Advocacy Mary Beth Halpern were there to provide an expert resource to elected officials and their staffs on bills the MACPA supported and other bills. Watch Tom Hood’s live report from Sine Die:

MACPA celebrates victories
Coinciding this year with the MACPA’s 116th birthday, Sine Die provided the opportunity to celebrate key legislative victories on several issues on which the association played offense and defense.

On offense, lawmakers passed a key bill that the MACPA supported. House Bill 484 / Senate Bill 288, which passed unanimously in each house, extends by one month the date on which state C corporation tax returns will be due to align with the new (extended) date of federal C corporation returns.

Significant progress was also made on HB 162, the Taxpayer Protection Act, which was introduced at the request of Comptroller Peter Franchot and would provide enhanced investigative powers to the Comptroller’s Office. The bill is aimed at fraudulent tax preparers, such as a string of tax prep agencies that have been shut down in a sweep in Maryland and other states for, in some cases, targeting the homeless and other individuals to overstate refunds and misdirect the funds to the preparers’ own private accounts. Supported with testimony by Hood and two MACPA members, the bill passed the House with only one objection and passed unanimously in the Senate. Although the bill passed in both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly, the clock ticked down to the end of the 2016 legislative session before the Senate and House could agree on amendments to the bill; therefore it is likely to be taken up again next year.

On defense, testimony by the MACPA  was influential in staving off a bill that would have been harmful to CPA firms and businesses in Maryland. HB 1440, “Labor and Employment: Non-Compete and Conflict of Interest Clauses,” ultimately received a heavily divided vote in the House and was not voted on by the Senate.

Issues anticipated for carryover next year
In addition to anticipated further action next year on finalizing the Taxpayer Protection Act, certain bills that the MACPA lobbied for did not pass both houses this year and are expected to be taken up again next year. For example, proposed legislation to introduce a small business cap for appeal bonds (“supersedeas bonds”), introduced as HB 171 / SB 231, passed unanimously in the House but was not voted on in the Senate. The MACPA provided testimony in related hearings in both the House and the Senate.

Although the separate small business cap was not achieved this year, the MACPA was successful in the prior year’s session in supporting the introduction of an appeal bond cap. Previously, there had been no cap on the amount of appeal bonds, jeopardizing companies that wanted to appeal by requiring them to post appeal bonds equal to the amount of judgments. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce joined the MACPA in supporting these and certain other bills.

Other bills of interest to CPAs included the Wynne tax refund interest rate bill, which was not voted on, and a series of tax relief bills aimed at boosting economic investment in Maryland, known as the “Augustine Commission” bills. The MACPA did not take a formal position on those bills. Although it appeared one of the Augustine bills may have passed both houses, the remaining bills did not. They likely will be reintroduced next year.

One bill which the MACPA testified against was the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the mandatory sick leave bill), HB 580 / SB 472. This bill passed the House of Delegates, with the vote heavily divided following testimony by the MACPA and other groups. The bill was not voted on in the Senate. The MACPA did not object based on the merits of the bill but rather on the significant cost and complexity to business owners (particularly small business owners).

MACPA made a difference
Reflecting on the important legislative wins this year by aligning state and federal C corporation due dates and coming close to achieving final passage of the Taxpayer Protection Act, Hood noted that the association’s efforts would result in easing the burden on CPAs who do tax and audit work during busy season. And as the legislature works to finalize the Taxpayer Protection Act next year, the MACPA’s early efforts this year and anticipated continued efforts next year will help keep CPAs in business and industry and taxpayers from being harmed by fraudulent tax preparers who increasingly turn to identity theft and other fraudulent schemes.

The MACPA wishes to thank its members for participating in CPA Day at the opening of the legislative season, testifying in hearings, and meeting with elected officials throughout the year. The MACPA also wishes to thank its lobbyist, Nick Manis, of Manis, Canning and Associates, and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce for working collaboratively in support of certain bills.

As noted above, Sine Day is marked with a flurry of activity, followed by the signing of bills by the governor, which takes place over the course of the next few weeks. See Governor Larry Hogan Signs 106 Bills Into Law.

A recap of the MACPA’s advocacy efforts during the 2016 legislative session is below. Contact Mary Beth Halpern to learn more about how you or your firm can get involved in these or other technical and advocacy issues at (800) 782-2036.

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