If you have any doubt about the power of grassroots advocacy, check out what happened to House Bill 691 in Maryland’s General Assembly.

Introduced on Feb. 1, the so-called “Filing Fee Fairness Act of 2017” called for an increase in the fee that small businesses must pay for filing an annual report with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. For businesses with just $200,000 in assets, that proposed annual fee would have skyrocketed from $300 to $4,000.

Then MACPA members got wind of the proposal.

Word of the exorbitant proposed increase spread rapidly through the MACPA’s state and federal tax listservs, and the association quickly added the bill to its legislative agenda. MACPA members were on hand to testify against the bill at a Feb. 22 hearing before the House Economic Matters Committee, and MACPA Executive Director Tom Hood submitted written testimony as well.

“An annual fee of $4,000 for a small business with only $200,000 of assets is unreasonable and unfair,” Hood wrote. “Calculating annual filing fees based on the taxable assets of the entity is poor tax policy as well as hopelessly unclear. It will lead to problems of interpretation and uneven application.”

Moreover, said Hood, the proposal was nothing more than a form of double taxation — and inherently bad for business in Maryland.

The opposition from the CPA community made an impression on Del. Chris Adams.

“Adams said many CPAs in his district complained more about the proposal than the current sick leave bill moving through the legislature,” MarylandReporter.com reporter Daniel Menefee wrote.

“I got a lot of opposition from the business community on this one,” Adams said.

Members of the House Economic Matters Committee apparently agreed with the state’s CPAs.

On March 3, the committee unanimously gave H.B. 691 an unfavorable reporting, and the bill’s sponsor, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, withdrew the bill.

That’s the power of legislative advocacy. The collective voice of Maryland’s CPAs was heard loud and clear.

Be vigilant, CPAs, and keep fighting the good fight. Our lawmakers hear you, and they’re paying attention.

Work remains on key issues
Near the top of our list is the Taxpayer Protection Act. Introduced by the Hogan administration and supported by Comptroller Peter Franchot, the bill would help the Comptroller’s Office prevent tax fraud, safeguard taxpayer information, and hold fraudulent tax filers and preparers accountable.

“We continue to see way too many cases of identity theft and fraudulent returns,” said Karen Syrylo, CPA, director of State and Local Tax and Advisory with Altus Group US and a legislatively active member of the MACPA’s State Tax Committee. “Believe it or not, there is reluctance or misunderstanding on the part of some legislators (with regard to this bill).”

MACPA members are encouraged to continue their legislative advocacy efforts by writing letters to their legislators in support of the Taxpayer Protection Act. Those who do should CC Mary Beth Halpern, the MACPA’s director of advocacy and technical services, at marybeth@macpa.org. Enter your address here to find your elected officials.

Read more about the Taxpayer Protection Act here.

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