Covering all the legislative matters coming up in January here in Maryland and items happening on the hill in Washington before the end of the year keeps us on our toes. A lot has been going on in both necks of the woods. Let’s talk about Federal legislation first.
Sales Tax Update
The landscape has changed a lot in sales tax. The Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act (S. 3725), introduced December 6 by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., aims to regulate interstate commerce and prevent states from retroactively enforcing remote seller statutes. They’re trying to streamline the process for everybody when they make sales outside of their state while limiting the timeframe. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what’s supposed to be happening, what they’d like to see happen, and how we can make the process better for all of our business clients who are actually doing multi-state sales.
Currently, there are about 9,000 separate sales taxing jurisdictions in the country. Ohio alone has almost 300. Due to this and other factors, making sales tax remittance is quite complicated. Even so, they are only requesting a one-year moratorium for implementation on all of the bill’s changes.
The IRS wants to know—How Strong is Your Password?
Every individual or tax practitioner who maintains any type of online accounts should use strong passwords to protect against savvy cybercriminals taking over their identities and accessing sensitive tax and financial data.
A new definition as to what a strong password consists of is emerging, though. The latest guidance suggests using a passphrase such as a favorite line from a movie or a series of associated words rather than using a password. The idea is to create a passphrase that can be remembered easily and protect the account. This means passwords like – “uE*s3P%8V)” – are out. Longer, personal phrases people can remember – for example, SunWalkRainDrive – are now preferred.
The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies, and the tax community, partners in the Security Summit, made “National Tax Security Awareness Week,” Dec. 3-7, with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. In part three, the topic involved creating a strong password.
This is especially important for taxpayers and tax professionals who use online accounts involving financial data or even their online account with the IRS or a tax software provider. To learn more about passwords, you can read IR-2018-241.
2019 MD Legislative Session
MSATP is working with our fellow stakeholders about an issue that is actually missing from your regulations as a registered tax preparer. CPAs have in their regulations that if they create a document for a client (work papers, etc.), we are able to keep that paperwork as our own. CPAs can maintain that paperwork, it does not belong to the client. Alternately, when registered tax preparers create that same schedule or another document for the client, that is the client’s property.
So, it’s a little bit confusing, and they’re trying (MSATP is working with Maryland) to develop the regulation to prevent that from happening to registered tax preparers, and have the paperwork belong to them as they prepared it. We’re trying to get that regulation revised so registered tax preparers are treated much the same as CPAs regarding their own paperwork and documents that they prepare.
A very important element for registered tax preparers to realize is that your paperwork is not yours to keep right now. It legally belongs to the client. MSATP is working diligently to try to get that changed.
During the 2019 session on January 9, we will be seeing a bill for CPA Firms addressing firm mobility. Again, the stakeholders have discussed the issue and we are waiting to see the final draft of the bill. We are hoping that somewhere down the line they will grant us firm mobility in Maryland.
Maryland Community College Promise Grant
During the 2018 Session, the Maryland Legislation passed the Maryland Community College Promise Grant which applies to 2019-2020 academic year. We have been informed that the application will become available on the Maryland Higher Education website either in late January or early February. We will post on our group and send out an announcement as soon as the application for the Promise Grant is ready for submissions. This is a great option for any who need assistance with paying for schooling to actually get that higher education.
A Few Reminders
If you are using Drake’s Tax Software, The Maryland Power of Attorney form in that software is not the most recent. It should be dated November 2017 for the Maryland Power of Attorney form. Don’t forget to look that up and get that fixed in the software.
PTIN reminder! This is due at the end of this month. If you are part of the Annual Filing Season Program, you must complete 15 hours of CPE by the end of this month as well. Simply go to https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals to make sure you’re complying with the AFS program and PTIN requirements.
Also, the healthcare sign-up deadline is December 15, 2018. The steps take about 30 minutes; it’s not hard, quite an easy process, and very user-friendly. Only a small window of opportunity left to take care of that if you need healthcare. Take advantage of this benefit.
Feel free to call the office if you need any help, and have a great day!