Comptroller and MD Retailers Association Announce Tax-Free Week Scholarship Contest

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 30, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot joined with the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) today to announce a social media contest coinciding with Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week in which two winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

Leading up to and during the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which takes place August 12 to 18, shoppers should like or follow the official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Then snap a picture or take a video that incorporates the theme of “Maryland” (the state colors, school apparel, sports team, a crab, etc.), write a creative caption and use #shopmdtaxfree during Tax-Free Week to submit an entry on any or all of the social media platforms.

MRA, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries at the week’s conclusion that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

“The State of Maryland loses money during Tax-Free Week, but it’s a big win for locally-owned businesses and for shoppers,” said Comptroller Franchot. “This will be the easiest scholarship Maryland college students will ever have the chance to win. There’s no application, no essay and no interview – just shop tax-free!”

“Tax-Free Week provides a much-needed boost to brick-and-mortar retailers in our state, and we encourage all consumers to support their local businesses,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, MRA president. “This year we are again thrilled to help promote shopping local and Tax-Free Week by offering scholarships to our contest winners.”

During Tax-Free Week, 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.

In the weeks leading up to and during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Comptroller Franchot will visit local businesses across the state to encourage shoppers to take advantage of these savings and to participate in the contest.

To get the latest details about Tax-Free Week and to enter the contest, like or follow the social media pages on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Resulting from legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, the tax-free week is held annually during the second week in August.  Businesses selling items that are not eligible for inclusion in the tax-free week can still participate in Shop Maryland. Under “Sellers Privilege,” other unqualified merchandise can be sold tax-free, but the retailer is responsible for paying the sales tax owed to the state.

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:
Joseph Shapiro - 
 jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

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

Caught in the Web: Comptroller Releases Names of Top Tax Evaders

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 11, 2018) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the names of the top 25 businesses and 20 individuals collectively owing $12.7 million in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest to the State of Maryland. The Comptroller’s Office publishes the top scofflaws on the agency’s website in a public attempt to get those on the list to pay what they owe as part of the Caught in the Web program. View the full list here.

“My Caught in the Web program highlights a small number of individuals and businesses that make a conscious effort to not pay their taxes,” said Comptroller Franchot. “The vast majority of Marylanders pay their fair share of taxes, and my office is committed to ensuring that everyone does. These people have chosen to take advantage of the benefits of this great state while thumbing their noses at the taxpayers who fulfill their legal obligations.”

The Comptroller’s Office has collected more than $45 million from delinquent taxpayers whose names appeared on one of the agency’s lists since the program’s inception in 2000. The list of scofflaws unveiled today shows liabilities of $6.4 million in back taxes, penalties and interest from 20 individuals and $6.3 million from 25 businesses.

When an individual or business fails to pay their Maryland taxes, the Comptroller’s Office initially sends a certified letter listing any unpaid charges incurred for taxes, interest and penalties. Taxpayers who fail to contact the agency to satisfy their tax liability or enter into an agreement to do so are eligible to be included in the Caught in the Web program. These individuals and businesses, which have already had liens filed against them, are notified prior to the list’s posting that they will be included.

Visit the Comptroller’s website for more information on Caught in the Web and tax compliance.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

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

Franchot Announces Opening of Taxpayer Service Office in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 3, 2018) - In his ongoing commitment to provide top flight taxpayer service, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the opening of a new Taxpayer Service Office at 60 West Street in downtown Annapolis.

“My office has a long-standing reputation for delivering respectful, responsive and results-oriented customer service – what I call the Three Rs,” Comptroller Franchot said. “This new location will be convenient and provide a welcoming environment for Maryland taxpayers to get assistance with tax questions while preserving strong security protocols for safeguarding sensitive information. We look forward to being a good downtown neighbor and serving taxpayers for many years to come.”

In February, the Board of Public Works unanimously approved a 10-year lease agreement for the new location. Year-round, the office will offer greater security and convenience for Marylanders to get walk-in tax help from trained professionals and to make tax payments.

Approximately 10 Comptroller employees from the nearby Revenue Administration Division building are staffing the new West Street location in Suite 102. The office will be open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In the past year and a half, the agency has opened remote call centers in Salisbury and Hagerstown to better respond to the volume of taxpayer inquiries received during peak tax season.

Click here for a map with directions to the new office>

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

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

Maryland Surpasses One Million Tax Returns Processed

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 5, 2018) - As the tax filing season churns along, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that his office has processed more than one million individual income tax returns. The one-millionth return was submitted by an Anne Arundel County tax filer.

As of Monday morning, 1,093,773 electronic and paper returns have been processed. Comptroller Franchot urged Marylanders to e-file because it’s the most secure and efficient way to submit a tax return. Most Marylanders who file electronically receive their state refunds within three business days.

“E-filing is the safest way for Marylanders to submit their tax returns,” Mr. Franchot said. “My staff remains vigilant in our fight to identify and stop fraudulent returns and safeguarding law-abiding taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”

Through the years of public outreach by the Comptroller and his staff, the number of electronic returns processed has steadily increased. Last year, the Comptroller’s office processed more than 2.6 million returns electronically. Electronic filers represented about 85 percent of the 3.2 million personal income tax returns filed last year.

The filing deadline for 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, rather than the traditional April 15. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday and Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – falls on April 16, which pushes the filing deadline to the following day.

Free state tax assistance is available at all of the agency’s 12 taxpayer service offices Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A list of office locations can be found at marylandtaxes.com.

For more information on any tax-related matter, please visit Comptroller’s website at marylandtaxes.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937) or 410-260-7980 in Central Maryland.

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

Comptroller Issues Temporary Waiver of State IFTA Requirements

UPDATE 3/9/18: This Executive Order for the Maryland State of Emergency has been rescinded.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 5, 2018) - In the wake of Winter Storm Riley ravaging parts of Maryland this past weekend, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced a temporary waiver of International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) requirements to help emergency responders and restoration activities across the state. The waiver is set to expire in early April.

“I want to ensure that businesses and individuals impacted by this storm can focus on cleaning up and rebuilding,” said Comptroller Franchot. “My office will assist in any way that we can.”

The waiver was created to ensure that essential emergency relief supplies and support can reach the affected areas across the state in a timely manner. It pertains only to shippers and carriers of essential relief supplies or to those that are providing restoration of utilities to severe weather impacted areas within or through Maryland.

Individuals or businesses with questions can email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980 (from Central Maryland) or 1-800-MD-TAXES.

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

More Than 9,000 Marylanders Sign Petition to Support House Bill 518

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 23, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that 9,339 Marylanders signed a petition in support of the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, far exceeding the goal of 6,541 signatures, which represents the number of jobs the craft beer industry supported in 2016. Marylanders have been signing the petition online and at events and breweries across the state since the drive began in December.

“We received signatures from every corner of the state in support of the Reform on Tap Act of 2018,” said Comptroller Franchot, whose Field Enforcement Division regulates breweries, wineries and distilleries. “The fact that we surpassed our goal comes as no surprise because Marylanders want our state to be supportive and welcoming of these manufacturers and family-owned small businesses that contribute so much to our communities and to our state’s economy.”

The Reform on Tap Act, which will be heard before the House Economic Matters Committee Friday afternoon, would remove limits on beer production and taproom sales, allow local jurisdictions to establish taproom operating hours, eliminate franchise law requirements and remove restrictions on contract brewing by upstart breweries, among other provisions.

An economic impact study conducted by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates found that in Maryland, the craft beer industry had an overall economic impact of $802.7 million and supported or created 6,541 jobs in 2016. The industry contributed nearly $110 million in local, state and federal revenues, which directly supports investments in education, public safety, transportation and the environment.

The results of the petition drive were announced on the same day that a letter signed by more than 90 county executives, councilmembers and commissioners was sent to members of the General Assembly urging them to support House Bill 518.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro- jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

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

Recognize Phishing Email Scams

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 28, 2017) - The IRS reminds taxpayers to be on the lookout for new, sophisticated email phishing scams that can compromise personal information and affect a taxpayer’s refund. This week is National Tax Security Awareness Week and the IRS is partnering with state tax agencies, including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office and other industry stakeholders to remind people about the importance of data protection.

“One of my top priorities as Comptroller is to stop cyber thieves from tricking Marylanders with bogus emails seeking personal financial information,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “Working together with our federal and state partners, we will hold accountable these scammers who take advantage of law-abiding taxpayers.”

Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to get personal information from the user. Typically, the criminal fools someone into believing the phishing email is from someone they trust. The emails often look and feel like authentic communications, but these targeted messages can trick even the most cautious person into doing something that may compromise data.

Taxpayers should be vigilant and skeptical. Even if the email is from a known source, they should use caution because cyber crooks are very good at mimicking trusted businesses, friends and family.

Here are six examples of email phishing scams:

  • Emails requesting personal information. The thief might ask for bank account numbers, passwords, credit cards and Social Security numbers. This is the most common way thieves steal data.
  • An email urgently warning the recipient to update online financial accounts at a hyperlink provided in the email. The link goes to a fake site.
  • A message with an email address spoofing a familiar address to look like trusted businesses, friends and family. The fake address has a slight change in text, such as name@example.com vs narne@example.com. Merely changing the “m” to an “r” and “n” can trick people.
  • Emails saying the recipient has a tax refund waiting at the IRS or that the IRS needs information about insurance policies. The IRS doesn’t initiate spontaneous contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
  • The message has hyperlinks that take someone to a fake site. In one example, the email says: “Following recent calculations, we notice that you are eligible to receive a tax refund. In order to start the refund procedure, please visit this link and follow the steps required.” The link goes to a fake site. The IRS doesn’t send emails asking for refund verification.
  • The message includes a PDF attachment that may download malware or viruses. Never open an attachment from a suspicious email address.

For more information, visit:

IRS National Tax Security Awareness Week Runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 1

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 21, 2017) ― For the second year, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office – and the tax industry will host National Tax Security Awareness Week to encourage individual and business taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities in advance of the 2018 filing season.

Starting Monday, November 27, the focus will be on issues posing a threat to individuals and businesses and steps to protect taxpayers from cybercriminals. In recent years, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry – partners in the Security Summit – have enacted a series of defenses to combat tax-related identity theft.

“We are resolute in our commitment to protecting Marylanders’ financial information and the integrity of our tax system,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “Throughout the year, my employees work tirelessly to identify fraudulent returns from thieves trying to drain the state coffers and from cheating Maryland citizens.”

Throughout the country, Summit partners and other consumer, business and community groups will host more than 25 events to raise tax data awareness during the week. In Maryland, the Internal Revenue Service’s Stakeholder Liaison – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office – and the Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals will take part in a forum from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 28, at the University of Phoenix, 8830 Stanford Boulevard, Room 128, in Columbia. Panelists will discuss ways to combat cyber thieves looking to trick people into disclosing sensitive information so they can file fraudulent tax returns.

The holiday season is an especially vulnerable time for online thievery as Marylanders do their holiday shopping and provide credit card and other personal information. Throughout the country, 145 million American have had their names, addresses and Social Security numbers stolen from a variety of locations.

The IRS and states have put many new defenses in place to help protect taxpayers from identity theft. The new IRS protections have worked well and some key indicators of identity theft on tax returns have dropped by around two-thirds since 2015. These protections are especially helpful if criminals only have names, addresses and Social Security numbers. However, the cybercriminals may try to obtain more specific financial details from taxpayers and tax professionals.

During the awareness week, taxpayers and tax professionals will learn:

  • Basic steps to protect themselves and their tax data online, such as using security software, strong passwords and data encryption.
  • What to do if they are a data breach victim, such as placing a freeze on their credit accounts and the signs of tax-related identity theft.
  • How cybercriminals use phishing emails to bait them into disclosing information.
  •  The dangers W-2 Scam that has made identity theft victims of thousands of employees.
  • Those small businesses also are subject to identity theft and should take steps to protect themselves.

The Summit partners will urge taxpayers to protect their tax and financial information by:

  • Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as bank, credit card company and government organizations (including the IRS), and to not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
  • Always using security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Making sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypting sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer. Using strong passwords.
  • Protecting personal data. Using strong unique passwords for each online account. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and making sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.

For more information, visit irs.gov.

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)