Comptroller Urges Marylanders to Save During Shop Maryland Energy Weekend February 16-18

Sales tax waived on qualifying ENERGY STAR products 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 7, 2019) -  Comptroller Peter Franchot is urging Marylanders to take advantage of big savings as part of the annual Shop Maryland Energy weekend from Saturday, February 16, through Monday, February 18. On these three days, consumers will not pay the state’s six percent sales tax on qualifying ENERGY STAR appliances.

“Shop Maryland Energy weekend is a great time to take advantage of potentially hundreds of dollars in savings on ENERGY STAR products that are good for the environment,” Comptroller Franchot said. “This program boosts sales during an otherwise down time for businesses and gives consumers an incentive to purchase energy-efficient appliances.”

The Comptroller will visit locally-owned retailers in the following cities and towns to promote Shop Maryland Energy weekend. Details about each visit will be released ahead of the planned stops.

  • Silver Spring: Friday, February 8
  • Rising Sun: Monday, February 11
  • Hagerstown: Tuesday, February 12
  • Cambridge: Thursday, February 13
  • Pikesville: Thursday, February 14

During the Shop Maryland Energy event, air conditioners, washers and dryers, furnaces, heat pumps, standard-size refrigerators, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs, dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats that have been designated as meeting or exceeding the applicable ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy will be tax-free. A list of ENERGY STAR items may be found at energystar.gov/products or at marylandtaxes.com.

For more information on Shop Maryland Energy weekend or to download printable rack cards and shareable logos, visit marylandtaxes.comFor additional questions e-mail 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)

Comptroller Franchot’s FED Agents Cite Pa. Man for Trying to Sell Untaxed Motor Fuel in Western Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 11, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot announced Monday that agents from the Field Enforcement Division (FED) cited a Pennsylvania man on February 6 who was trying to sell motor fuel from a fuel delivery truck without a license and registration in Maryland.

“Our FED agents are on the job round-the-clock to catch tax cheats who don’t want to play by the rules like hard-working Maryland businesses and families do,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “I commend them for their diligence and for partnering with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division troopers from the Maryland State Police in stopping trucks carrying untaxed fuel in Maryland.”

Agents cited Eric Coleman Swank, 42 of Markleysburg, (Fayette County) Pa., who was driving a 2005 Peterbilt tank wagon registered to Laurel Fuel Company of Rockwood, (Somerset County) Pa., with operating a motor vehicle on a highway in the State of Maryland with dyed fuel in the propulsion tank; engaging in motor fuel business without a license; transporting motor fuel/special fuel without registration; and unlawfully failing to have a copy of loading ticket. He also was cited by the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED) of the Maryland State Police for no hazmat endorsement; no apportioned registration; no shipping papers for hazmat and displaying expired Pennsylvania registration plate. Laurel Fuel Company is not licensed to sell fuel in Maryland.

Acting on a tip from the Comptroller’s Revenue Administration Division, FED agents began conducting petroleum transporter inspections on fuel delivery vehicles operating in Garrett County near the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line. On Wednesday morning, agents and inspectors stopped Mr. Swank’s truck at U.S. Routes 40 and 219 at Keysers Ridge in Accident.

Agents then conducted an inspection of the truck and discovered untaxed dyed fuel in the propulsion tank of the truck, which is a violation of state law. The driver also admitted to making a delivery of fuel at a nearby location in Maryland. Agents then contacted MSP’s CVED.

Agents and troopers cited Mr. Swank, seized the delivery vehicle and remaining fuel onboard and took it to a secured impound lot in Jessup. Additional delivery documents indicating multiple Maryland fuel deliveries also were recovered and seized as part of the inspection. The value of the untaxed fuel has not been determined. The investigation is continuing.

Photos available upon request.

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 Office to Assist Maryland Federal Retirees Who Owe Debt

No additional offsets will be imposed by Comptroller’s Collections Section

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 8, 2019) - The Maryland Comptroller’s Office will offer assistance to Maryland federal retirees who owe Maryland taxes and were subject to an offset of their federal pension by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

On Feb. 1, the Treasury Department mailed notices to approximately 7,500 federal retirees in Maryland owing Maryland taxes as part of its Treasury Offset Program. The notice states that the Department of Treasury could withhold up to 25 percent from a retiree’s pension until the debt is resolved.

The Maryland Comptroller’s Office’s Compliance Division will work with federal retirees and the Department of Treasury on a case by case basis, but the Comptroller’s Office will not offset federal retirees’ pensions for state tax obligations.

Federal retirees in Maryland with a state tax obligation are encouraged to make a payment arrangement with the Comptroller Office’s Compliance Division’s Collections Section by calling 410-974-2432.

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 Franchot Calls on Speaker Busch to Remove Campaign Treasurer

Neal Katcef is Anne Arundel County’s largest Budweiser distributor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 08, 2019) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today issued this statement in response to the introduction of Senate Bill 687 – Alcoholic Beverages – Prohibition of Donations to Regulators. The bill will be heard on February 22 at 1 p.m., in the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee. Below is a copy of the letter Comptroller Franchot sent to Speaker Busch and all members of the Maryland General Assembly:

“Earlier this week, Sen. Ben Kramer introduced a bill that would specifically prohibit me, or members of the Office of the Maryland Comptroller, from accepting campaign contributions from the alcohol, tobacco and motor fuel industries. I believe this is part of the ongoing campaign to punish me for pulling back the curtain on the big beer cartel that has been running Annapolis for decades.

“I will gladly support the bill if this bill applies equally to all members of the Maryland General Assembly, their slate committees, Political Action Committees (PACs) and all of the other backdoor ways they have to raise money from special interests. If we’re serious about taking big beer money out of the political process, let’s stop playing games and seeking retribution for one person’s support of the family-owned, small business, craft beer industry. Let’s do this right.

“I encourage Speaker of the House, Mike Busch, to lead by example. His campaign treasurer, the person who handles the collection of donations to his election efforts, is Neal Katcef, the biggest Budweiser distributor in Anne Arundel County. First, I would like to say that I have known Neal personally for many years and he has even supported my own campaigns. He is the consummate gentleman and incredibly supportive and generous to the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County community through his charitable activities. He also works professionally and proactively with our Field Enforcement Division. This is not an effort focused on Mr. Katcef as an individual.

“However, how can the Annapolis Machine claim, with straight faces, to be objective on issues affecting Maryland craft beer when a major player in Big Beer literally collects the campaign contributions, writes the checks, and keeps the books for the most powerful man in the House of Delegates?

“It is in that spirit of consistency that I have publicly called for Speaker Busch to remove Mr. Katcef as his official campaign treasurer, effective today, and assign these responsibilities to someone with no ties to Maryland’s alcohol, tobacco or motor fuel industries.

“If we are truly serious about making this effort something more than a political stunt from the Annapolis Machine, then it must be a complete, unconditional break with these special interests.”

February 8, 2019
The Honorable Michael E. Busch

Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates

H-101 State House

Annapolis, MD 21401 – 1991

Dear Mr. Speaker:

As you know, Senator Ben Kramer introduced legislation earlier this week that would specifically prohibit me and employees of my agency from accepting campaign contributions from the alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel industries.

I will gladly support this legislative proposal if it applies equally to all members of the Maryland General Assembly, their slate committees, political action committees and all of the other backdoor ways there are to raise money from special interests. If we are serious about taking big beer money out of the political process, let’s stop playing games and let’s do it right.

In that spirit, I am calling on you to relieve Mr. Neal Katcef, the largest Budweiser beer distributor in Anne Arundel County, of his duties as your campaign treasurer effective today. I consider Mr. Katcef a consummate gentleman. While this issue is not directed at him as an individual, I believe this is a good and sincere first step to removing the influence of big beer in Annapolis.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Peter Franchot

Comptroller

CC: Members of the Maryland General Assembly

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 Franchot Responds to Senate Bill 703 Introduction

Media Availability with the Comptroller at 2:30 pm Today at State House Press Row

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 5, 2019) - In an unprecedented and unsubstantiated political maneuver, Senator Ben Kramer (D-19 Montgomery Co.) has filed legislation, Senate Bill 703, that would strip the Comptroller of Maryland of existing authority to regulate the alcohol, motor fuel and tobacco industries. For more than 168 years, since 1851, the office of the Maryland Comptroller has overseen tax collection and managed fiscal affairs for the State of Maryland. Below is a statement from Comptroller Peter Franchot about the introduction of Senate Bill 703:

“Despite his obvious financial conflicts of interest, Senator Kramer has introduced this bill because of my efforts to reform Maryland’s archaic craft beer laws and level the playing field for small businesses throughout the state. Senator Kramer, who personally financially gains from a controlled monopoly on liquor distribution in Montgomery County, apparently has found inspiration in his national elected neighbors in Washington, DC to take hostage public employees to score political points.

“His actions demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the vital role that my office, through our award-winning Field Enforcement Division, plays in the fight to protect consumers at the gas pump, to recoup loss tax revenue from illegal alcohol operations, to prevent unlawful cigarette and tobacco smuggling, and even to protect taxpayers from tax fraud and identity theft. The bill has supposedly been filed at the request of a recent task force, however, these topics weren’t discussed, nor were they even part of the mission of that task force. Additionally, no financial feasibility examination was undertaken to determine the cost of moving the Field Enforcement Division to another authority and the resulting process needed to collect loss tax revenue; nor has consideration been given to how this move would impact these dedicated agents and their enforcement efforts.

“Senator Kramer is a compromised representative as he continues to receive payments eclipsing $20,000 per month from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control for a space it leases in a building owned by Senator Kramer and his family. It’s astounding to me that he would proceed with efforts to reorganize alcohol regulation in the State of Maryland despite his obvious conflicts of interest. His unwillingness to recuse himself from the task force and to compound that by introducing alcohol regulatory legislation should be of great concern to the Maryland General Assembly and the voters of Maryland resulting in the withdrawal of SB703.

“In 2007, I took my Oath of Office for the first time as the 33rd Comptroller of Maryland. Since that time our Field Enforcement Division has been responsible for the seizure of more than:

  • 2 million packs of contraband cigarettes
  • 1.4 million packages of other tobacco products
  • 3,400 gallons of illegal distilled spirits
  • 2,000 gallons of illegal wine
  • 85,000 containers of contraband beer

“This, in addition to more than $9 million in sales and use tax collected from businesses that was previously uncollected. This is an extraordinary record of success demonstrating best practices by our nationally recognized Field Enforcement team.

“Rest assured that my office will continue to execute our duties in the fairest and most effective, responsive manner possible just as we have always done. This will also not deter my continued advocacy for better beer laws for consumers and small businesses. Finally, I guarantee each of you that this is merely the beginning of a much deeper conversation about the highly irregular, unseemly relationship between the corporate beer lobby and the leadership of the Maryland General Assembly.”

 

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)

PA Man Arrested in Worcester County for Transporting Contraband Cigarettes

Field Enforcement Division agents seize 3,800 packs and vehicle

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 31, 2019) - During a surveillance operation January 24, agents from the Comptroller of Maryland’s Field Enforcement Division (FED) arrested a Pennsylvania man and confiscated thousands of packs of contraband cigarettes.

“Our FED agents are always on the lookout for cheats and crooks who take the chance of driving through Maryland with their illegal tobacco products,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “We are proud of their dedicated work in identifying these scofflaws and bringing them to justice.”

At 10:30 a.m. January 24, FED agents saw a man buy multiple cartons of cigarettes from a discount cigarette retail store along U.S. Route 13 in Oak Hall, Va. The man put them in the rear of a 2006 Toyota Scion with a Pennsylvania license plate and then drove north on Route 13 from Virginia into Maryland. Agents stopped the vehicle at Route 13 and Sheep House Road in Pocomoke, Worcester County and conducted a search of the car.

FED agents seized 3,840 packs of contraband cigarettes and the car used in transportation. The seized cigarettes are valued at $24,768 and represent a tax loss to the state of $7,680.

The driver, Jose Amado Rivera, 71, of Philadelphia, was arrested and charged with a felony count of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor count of possession of contraband cigarettes. Mr. Rivera was taken before a district court commissioner in Snow Hill, Worcester County, and released on personal recognizance. A court date has not been set.

Photo available upon request.

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)

Media Contacts

Communications Office Main Number - 410-260-7300 (media calls only)

If you are a member of the media and need to contact someone in the agency’s communications office, please call or email one of the following individuals:

Susan O’Brien, Director of Communications
410-260-7305
443-875-8540 (cell)
sobrien@comp.state.md.us

Alan Brody Press Secretary
410-260-6346
abrody@comp.state.md.us

Barbara Sauers, Deputy Press Secretary
410-260-7438
bsauers@comp.state.md.us

If you are a taxpayer with a tax related question please call:
410-260-7980 or email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us

Comptroller Franchot Announces Help for Federal Workers Affected by Shutdown

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 15, 2019) - As the partial federal government shutdown extends into its fourth week, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced a plan to provide financial relief to impacted federal workers unsure when their next paycheck will arrive.

Federal contractors, furloughed employees, and those working without pay currently on payment plans with the State may be granted reduced or even suspended payments while the shutdown drags on.

“The longer this government shutdown lasts, the more financial hardship it is causing federal workers, some of whom may never get repaid,” said Comptroller Franchot. “My agency recognizes that Marylanders affected by this prolonged impass face a greater burden to make ends meet and to fulfill their tax obligations. As always, we stand ready to help Marylanders facing these challenging times.”

The assistance provided by the Comptroller’s Office will help federal workers with personal income liabilities and other outstanding tax obligations. As specific circumstances vary, each request will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Affected federal workers, including federal contractors and federal employees working without pay, who may have outstanding Maryland tax obligations, are encouraged to contact the Comptroller of Maryland’s Ombudsman’s Office via email at ombudsman@comp.state.md.us or via telephone at 410-260-4020.

To further assist taxpayers, an email address (govshutdownrelief@comp.state.md.us) has been created to receive specific shutdown-related inquiries.

MEDIA CONTACT: 

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