As Shop MD Tax-Free Week Begins, USM Doubles Top Scholarship Prize

Students attending member institutions will get $5,000 if their entry wins #shopmdtaxfree social media contest

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 11, 2019) - Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is underway, meaning big savings for shoppers and a chance for students attending a Maryland college or trade school to win a huge scholarship, simply by posting their shopping experience on social media through August 17.

The University System of Maryland (USM) Foundation has announced that it will generously match the $2,500 top prize provided by the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) if the winner attends a member institution, meaning a total prize of $5,000 could be awaiting one Marylander!

“The University System of Maryland is pleased to support this year’s Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which is an important and effective way that Maryland students and families can stretch their back-to-school dollars,” said USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret. “We also appreciate the Maryland Retailers Association leveraging this annual activity by sponsoring the #shopmdtaxfree scholarship contest.  To add to the excitement, I am happy to report that the USM Foundation will match the MRA’s $2,500 college scholarship if the eventual winner is enrolled at one of the USM’s 12 institutions or three regional centers—that’s a potential $5,000 scholarship to a lucky USM student!  Again, we’re happy to do our part to support this important effort by Comptroller Peter Franchot and the MRA—good luck to all!”

In addition, USM institutions may individually choose to add on to this amount with their own matching scholarship, meaning the prize could go even higher.

“Just when I thought tax-free week couldn’t get any better, one student could now be in line for a $5,000 scholarship!” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “All they have to do is take a fun photo or video while shopping, write a creative caption and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #shopmdtaxfree. There’s no application, no interview, no essay – it doesn’t get any easier than that!”

During tax-free week, which runs through midnight on Saturday, August 17, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less – regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time – will be exempt from the state’s 6 percent sales tax. The first $40 of any backpack purchase is also tax-free.

This is the third year that the Maryland Retailers Association have provided scholarship money for Maryland college or trade school students — $2,500 for first place and $1,000 for second place — during tax-free week. Previous top prize winners attended Anne Arundel Community College and Cecil College.

Once again, entering the contest is simple. Eligible students simply need to:

  • Take a fun photo or video while shopping.
  • Write a catchy caption. (Be creative to catch the eye of the judges!)
  • Post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #shopmdtaxfree.

After tax-free week, the MRA will select the two entries that best reflect the spirit of the contest and announce the winners. A scholarship presentation will take place in the following weeks.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-254-6000 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 240-460-5937 (mobile)

Comptroller Reminds Marylanders Tax-Free Week is August 11-17

Maryland college and trade school students can win scholarships of $2,500 and $1,000 by using #shopmdtaxfree on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 5, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot reminds Marylanders that Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week begins on Sunday, August 11, and runs through Saturday, August 17.

The Comptroller once again is joining with the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) to promote a social media contest in which two winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

To enter the contest during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Maryland college and trade school students simply need to:

  • Take a fun photo or video while shopping.
  • Write a catchy caption. (Be creative to catch the eye of the judges!)
  • Post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #shopmdtaxfree.

Shoppers can like or follow the official social media pages on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more information. MRA, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

“Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is a great opportunity for parents to get deals on back-to-school clothes and for anyone to refresh a tired wardrobe,” Comptroller Franchot said. “And with the scholarship contest, two creative students have an opportunity to save on school costs simply by taking a fun photo or video while shopping, write a snappy caption and post it on the official social media pages.”

From August 11-17, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less – regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time – will be exempt from the state’s six percent sales tax. The first $40 of any backpack or bookbag purchase is also tax-free.

Comptroller Franchot will visit the following local businesses to encourage shoppers to take advantage of these savings and to participate in the contest. Details about each visit will be released several days ahead of the planned stops:

  • Monday, Aug. 5: Remix Recycling Co., 7022 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase
  • Wednesday, Aug. 7: John’s Men’s Clothing, 10 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Bel Air
  • Thursday, Aug. 8: Van Dyke & Bacon, 5919 York Rd., Baltimore
  • Tuesday, August 13: The Teal Antler, 156 W. Main St., Elkton
  • Wednesday, August 14: Target, 28539 Marlboro Ave., Easton

For more information on qualifying items, visit marylandtaxes.gov, email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980 (Central Maryland) or toll-free at 1-800-MD-TAXES.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

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

Baltimore County Tax Preparer Sentenced for Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns

Field Enforcement Division at Comptroller’s Office credited in initiating case; Rosedale tax preparer ordered to make restitution of more than $89,000 to State of Maryland

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Field Enforcement Division of the Maryland Comptroller’s Office initiated this case against a Baltimore County tax preparer and forwarded it to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office for prosecution. The following is a copy of the Attorney General’s Press Release:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 25, 2019) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today announced that Jonathan Hebb, 43, of Rosedale, pleaded guilty in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to two counts of filing a false income tax return.

From January 2013 through March 2017, Hebb, who was a registered tax preparer in Maryland, prepared and filed Maryland income tax returns, for a fee, on behalf of numerous Maryland residents. Hebb was employed at Tax Care Financial Services in Baltimore County. Many of the Maryland tax returns Hebb filed on behalf of his taxpayer clients included false information. Hebb included the false information to fraudulently minimize the taxpayers’ Maryland tax liabilities and increase the tax refunds the taxpayers received from the State of Maryland.

Based on the false and fraudulent tax returns Hebb prepared and filed, his clients received tax refunds totaling approximately $89,633.00. Hebb faced imprisonment for up to 10 years on each count. Judge Wachs sentenced Hebb to 5 years’ incarceration, suspended, five years of supervised probation and ordered him to pay restitution of $89,633 to the State of Maryland. He is also prohibited from acting as a tax preparer.

“Filing fraudulent tax returns is equivalent to stealing from the State,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Tax preparers have a responsibility to file honest returns. Mr. Hebb’s actions were inexcusable.”

The case was investigated by the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division and prosecuted by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

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

More Than 3 Million State Tax Returns Processed

Nearly $2.2 billion in refunds issued to Maryland taxpayers

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July, 25, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that his agency has processed more than 3 million state tax returns for the 2018 tax year, with more than 2.6 million, or 87 percent of returns filed electronically. So far, the total amount of refunds issued to Maryland taxpayers is nearly $2.2 billion.

“I’m happy to return this money to hardworking Marylanders,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Filing electronically helps our agency to process returns quickly, securely and accurately, while getting refunds back to taxpayers in an average of less than three business days.”

The Comptroller has 12 branch offices located throughout the state that helps taxpayers file electronically. Agency employees at the satellite locations, and via the toll-free Taxpayer Services phone number, provide free state tax preparation assistance.

Filers can contact Taxpayer Services at 410-260-7980 from Central Maryland, or 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937) from elsewhere. Tax assistance is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Learn more about our free tax preparation services. You also can e-mail your tax questions to taxhelp@comp.state.md.us. For bilingual services, call 1-800-MDTAXES and press option #2.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

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

Maryland Comptroller’s Unclaimed Property Program Surpasses $1 Billion in Claims

From modest beginning in 1966, returning money and property to rightful owners has become major agency initiative

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 9, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that the Unclaimed Property section of the agency has surpassed a significant milestone – processing more than $1 billion in claims since the program began in 1966.

“It’s a testament to the hardworking men and women of our agency that so many Marylanders have reclaimed their money and property,” said Comptroller Franchot. “From dormant bank accounts and forgotten security deposits to abandoned insurance claims and property left in safe deposit boxes, we have doggedly worked to identify the rightful owners and return what is theirs.”

In its first year, the Unclaimed Property section paid out 12 claims with a value of $711.48. More than 50 years later, the program disburses more than $60 million annually.

Each year, the Comptroller’s Office launches a public awareness campaign to promote the publication of the unclaimed property list. This year’s theme, incorporated in the print insert distributed to newspapers throughout the state and a video titled “Unclaimed Property Brothers,” features Comptroller Franchot and his previously unknown “twin” brother Pierre finding unclaimed property during a home renovation.

In addition, the list of 69,039 accounts worth more than $59 million will be the highlight of the Comptroller’s booth at fairs and festivals around the state this summer and fall.

Last year, 3,160 people at Maryland fairs and festivals stopped by the agency’s Unclaimed Property display to peruse the published list. Of that total, 642 people (more than 20 percent of those who searched) discovered and received more than $557,000 in unclaimed funds.

In total, the agency has more than 1.3 million accounts worth more than $1.6 billion in its Unclaimed Property program. Individuals and businesses can also search the online Unclaimed Property database at www.marylandtaxes.gov.

This year, the Unclaimed Property booth will be set up at the following fairs and festivals:

Allegany County Fair
July 13-20
11490 Moss Ave.
Cumberland, MD

Howard County Fair
August 3-10
2210 Fairgrounds Road
West Friendship, MD

Montgomery County Fair
August 9-17
501 Perry Pkwy.
Gaithersburg, MD

Maryland State Fair
August 23-September 2
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

Prince George’s County Fair
September 5-8
Show Place Arena
14900 Pennsylvania Ave.
Upper Marlboro, MD

Anne Arundel County Fair
September 12-15
1450 Generals Highway
Crownsville, MD

Great Frederick Fair
September 13-21
797 E. Patrick St.
Frederick, MD

Master Aging Expo
October 19
Howard Community College
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD

Power of Age Expo
October 30
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, MD

MEDIA CONTACTS: 

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

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

Franchot Reports $5.8 Million Rebate from State Purchasing Card Program

77 state agencies account for $284.8 million in small purchases

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 8, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that the State of Maryland has received a $5.8 million rebate from U.S. Bank. The payment is the result of 77 state agencies spending $284.8 million on small purchases through Maryland’s Corporate Purchasing Card program for the period of April 26, 2018 through April 25, 2019.

“Marylanders expect their government to protect their financial interests and to save money whenever possible,” Comptroller Franchot said. “The Corporate Purchasing Card program allows state agencies to make small purchases in an efficient way, to provide accountability and to pay vendors in a timely manner, all while earning back a percentage of those dollars that can be put towards worthy programs.”

Under this program, the Comptroller’s Office issues one payment each month to U.S. Bank for all card purchases made during the previous month. Merchants are paid directly by VISA, usually within two business days of the purchase, which is shorter than the normal 30-day payment cycle. U.S. Bank pays a rebate when the state reaches pre-set purchase volumes. This contract for Purchasing Card services was approved by the Board of Public Works in 2013, with U.S. Bank offering a higher rebate percentage than the previous vendor.

Maryland first began using the VISA corporate purchasing card program in March 1997. Since then, the state has purchased over $4.3 billion worth of goods and services, while earning $68.4 million in rebates.

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

Comptroller Franchot Issues Statement on Today’s P3 Vote

‘For the sake of our economy, public safety and quality of life, we need better roads AND better mass transit’

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 5, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today issued the following statement after the Board of Public Works approved the designation of a plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 as a public-private partnership (P3).

“The State of Maryland is experiencing one of the worst traffic congestion crises in the nation – and as my fellow commuters in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties know, it’s only getting worse every day.

“Our congestion crisis has made life unbearable for people trying to get to work on time, for parents driving their kids to practices and games and for police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers who are trying to save lives. This crisis will not be solved simply by constructing better roads and adding road capacity. Nor will it be solved simply by creating new transit routes and services. To the contrary, the magnitude of this challenge and the devastating consequences of inaction, demand a balanced solution. This is not about roads OR transit. For the sake of our economy, public safety and quality of life, we need better roads AND better mass transit. For that matter, we also need to make it much easier and safer for people to walk and ride bikes to their destinations.

“Consistent with that balanced approach, I voted today to allow Governor Hogan’s Administration to further explore the feasibility of an innovative new idea for relieving traffic gridlock on Interstate 270 and, in later years, on the Capital Beltway – one that would be built by the private sector and not by the taxpayers.  For those who may have missed today’s Board of Public Works meeting, today’s vote will simply allow the Maryland Department of Transportation to solicit bids from the private sector to build – at their own expense and at their own financial risk – lane capacity to these two, clogged interstate highways.

“Should a highly credible proposal be submitted and recommended to the Board of Public Works for our approval – which wouldn’t happen until late 2020 at the very earliest – the taxpayers of Maryland would not be asked to incur a financial obligation for this project. Rather, the state’s private partner would recoup its investment through toll receipts.

“No construction-related activities, whatsoever, will occur because of today’s vote. Not one shovel of dirt will be turned and not one property or parcel of land will be acquired without the future approval of the Board of Public Works. Furthermore, the project will not be approved by this Board until the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review – which includes the official Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – is complete.

“While today’s vote merely represents the beginning of a very long process, I did take advantage of the process to lay down several markers that I believe are very important to the public interest.

“I insisted that we maximize this opportunity to balance this potential investment in roads with real improvement to our region’s mass transit network. I’m pleased to have secured a commitment from the Governor and MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn to direct a significant portion of toll revenues toward regional transit services – be they Metrorail, Metrobus, Ride-On or TheBus. I was assured at today’s meeting that regional and commuter bus services will have full access to the private toll lanes, which will make east-west and I-270 corridor bus services a much more appealing option to commuters throughout the region.

“Furthermore, I asked the Department to study the feasibility of monorail as yet another part of the solution to our region’s mobility challenges, and the Department has agreed to do so. These commitments, of course, are in addition to the Purple Line, which will run from New Carrollton to Bethesda and is now being constructed under the Public-Private model.

“I shared my expectations that any private proposal that ultimately comes before the Board of Public Works will feature the most ecologically-sensitive engineering and construction techniques in the nation. Before I approve any future contracts, I intend to convene a working group of experts – from engineers and planners to road builders and environmental stakeholders – to ensure that any project we adopt will meet the highest possible standards of sustainability.

“Finally, I made it abundantly clear that if this project is, indeed, to proceed, it must do so without unexpected or hidden public expense. Rest assured that at a time when too many of our taxpayers are already struggling to make ends meet, that I will not vote to approve any project that unduly exposes them to financial loss.

“Today’s vote was the catalyst for an extraordinary amount of public activism on both sides of this issue. Based on the outcome of today’s discussion, it is quite clear that many of the concerns expressed by stakeholders did, indeed, make a difference with Governor Hogan. I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to reach out to me directly and express their thoughts on this project.  Please rest assured that I listened carefully and made every effort to bring your ideas to the table for today’s discussion.

“Now that we are, officially, at the beginning of what promises to be a long and thorough process, I would strongly encourage everyone to remain engaged, to demand transparency and to hold all of us who serve in state and local government accountable to those we’ve been hired to serve.  It is my expectation that a positive process will lead to a balanced solution that will make our economy stronger, our communities safer and our state more livable for our families.”

# # #

MEDIA CONTACTS:      Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                      410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)                                                         Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                      410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller’s Baltimore Office to be Closed on Friday, May 24

Emergency air conditioning repairs will affect State Center complex

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 22, 2019) - Due to emergency repairs to the air conditioning system at the State Center complex in Baltimore, the Maryland Comptroller’s Office in Baltimore will be closed on Friday, May 24, 2019.

The Comptroller’s Office occupies three floors at 301 W. Preston Street, one of the affected buildings managed by the Maryland Department of General Services.

Taxpayers who have business with the agency are encouraged to call or visit one of the Comptroller’s 12 satellite offices — the closest branch to Baltimore is in Towson – or to access our online services at https://www.marylandtaxes.gov.

Any further changes to the status of the State Center office will be shared as necessary. Please monitor the DGS website for updates regarding the repair work and building status.

Comptroller Franchot and all agency employees appreciate the public’s patience and understanding during this temporary inconvenience.

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