Archive for the ‘Maryland’ Category

We’re Not Gonna Take It…

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

You may have heard that earlier this week four states sued to stop parts of the new tax law from going into effect. The states–New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland–don’t like the new $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes on federal tax returns. I believe this lawsuit is doomed; there’s no right in the Constitution to allow deducting of such taxes. This isn’t just my opinion; Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy notes what I think:

They argue not only that the 2017 cap is unconstitutional, but that the federal government has a general obligation to exempt “all or a significant portion of state and local taxes” from the federal income tax. The problem with this argument is simple: nothing in the text or original meaning of the Constitution supports it. To the contrary, the Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress a general power to power “to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.” There is no mandated exemption for income used to pay state or local taxes. There is also no support for the states’ position in Supreme Court precedent, or in the American constitutional tradition more generally.

The humorous thing (to me) is that blue states normally lead in ‘progressiveness’ of their tax systems (that is, higher rates for individuals earning higher incomes). The cap on deductions will primarily hurt high income individuals. Of course, blue states don’t want out-migration of such high income individuals. Perhaps they might look to lower tax rates. Mr. Somin notes they could remove zoning restrictions. As for this lawsuit, it sounds nice to their constituents but it is almost certainly doomed.

Maryland Suspends Processing Tax Returns from 23 Liberty Tax Service Locations

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced on Tuesday that he has suspended processing from 16 more Liberty Tax Service locations (bringing the total suspended to 23). The decision was made based on suspicious characteristics found on the returns:

  • Business income reported when taxpayers did not own a business.
  • Refund amounts requested much higher than previous year tax returns.
  • Inflated and/or undocumented business expenses.
  • Dependents claimed when taxpayers did not provide required 50 percent support or care.
  • Inflated wages and withholding information.

These reasons sound like tax fraud 101–what’s been done by unscrupulous preparers year after year. This year, though, at least one state is making an effort to nip these problems before they grow too large.

It should be noted that these stores were owned by franchisees. Jim Wheaton, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, and Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs at Liberty, told Accounting Today that they have a “…robust compliance program, and we expect our franchisees to make sure that their offices comply with all federal and state tax requirements.”

For consumers, the advice that Maryland noted in their press release is accurate: “Taxpayers should carefully review their returns for these issues and should be suspicious if a preparer: deducts fees from the taxpayer’s refund to be deposited into the tax preparer’s account; does not sign the tax return; or fails to include the Preparer Taxpayer Identification number “PTIN” on the return.” I’ll add, if you don’t own a business and see business income on your return, there’s a problem. If you’re not attending college (or have a dependent attending college) and see education tax credits, there’s a problem. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

How to Wynne Your Money Back in Maryland

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Earlier this year the US Supreme Court ruled that Maryland had to issue full tax credits–including the county add-on tax–to individuals facing double taxation (typically, Maryland residents who earned income taxed in other states). Kay Bell in Don’t Mess With Taxes today noted that the Comptroller of Maryland (Maryland’s state tax agency) has created a webpage for those impacted.

The webpage gives the basics on this, and notes that the Comptroller’s office will not be contacting impacted taxpayers. There’s a link within to a web page on the Wynne Case and the Comptroller’s office has a new form (From 502LC) designed for this specific situation. There’s also a detailed FAQ.

I also need to point out this decision likely impacts other states and jurisdictions. Other states with “add-on” local taxes include Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. However, where this impacts taxpayers is residing in a state that does not allow a tax credit for local taxes (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin are some of the states so identified) and/or residing in a local jurisdiction that does not allow such a credit (jurisdictions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Delaware, and Indiana have been so identified). I have not looked at each state/local jurisdiction to see who is impacted. If you think you’re impacted–remember, you would need to live in a jurisdiction that hasn’t been allowing such a tax credit and have taken such a tax credit on a recent tax return–you should contact your tax professional.

The Real Impact of the Wynne Decision

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Yesterday’s decision in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v Wynne Et Ux generated some reporting in print media. Yet much of what I saw was incorrect in part or in whole.

New York does give full tax credits for individuals with out-of-state income; I do not believe they will be impacted. However, many states do not give credits for local taxes. Joe Kristan highlighted Iowa today; Kentucky is another state that does not currently offer such tax credits. Under Wynne I believe they’ll be required to offer such credits. (I only know about Kentucky because I had a client impacted by this.) Joe noted that Tax Analysts saw that North Carolina and Wisconsin (along with a host of local governments) also don’t offer such credits. That’s where I think the real impact will be.

A Wynne for the Dormant Commerce Clause

Monday, May 18th, 2015

The US Supreme Court today decided Comptroller of Maryland v. Wynne. The Wynnes, Maryland residents, had out of state income duly reported on both their Maryland tax return and on other state tax returns. They wanted a full credit for the non-Maryland taxes paid on their Maryland tax return.

However, the Comptroller of Maryland denied the full credit. Maryland has a system where counties have add-on taxes to the state’s income tax. Maryland allowed the credit for state tax but not the county tax. The Wynnes appealed the decision. They lost at low levels but won in the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Supreme Court. The Comptroller of Maryland appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The US Supreme Court today held that the dormant commerce clause discrminates against interstate commerce and is unconstitutional:

Maryland’s income tax scheme discriminates against interstate commerce. The “internal consistency” test, which helps courts identify tax schemes that discriminate against interstate commerce, assumes that every State has the same tax structure. Maryland’s income tax scheme fails the internal consistency test because if everyState adopted Maryland’s tax structure, interstate commerce would be taxed at a higher rate than intrastate commerce. Maryland’s taxscheme is inherently discriminatory and operates as a tariff, which is fatal because tariffs are “[t]he paradigmatic example of a law discriminating against interstate commerce.” Petitioner [Comptroller of Maryland] emphasizes that by offeringresidents who earn income in interstate commerce a credit against the “state” portion of the income tax, Maryland actually receives lesstax revenue from residents who earn income from interstate commerce rather than intrastate commerce, but this argument is a red herring. The critical point is that the total tax burden on interstate commerce is higher. [citations omitted]

The easiest fix for Maryland is to offer a full credit for the county tax. The actual fix, though, is up to the Democratic legislature and the Republican governor to decide. Individuals who have been impacted by the discriminatory system may want to file protective claims for refunds if the statute of limitations for them is nearing expiration.

This case also highlights the difficulties facing a taxpayer without deep pockets. Mr. Wynne is an owner of Maxim Healthcare and likely has the funds to fight the matter. In cases like this, it’s rare to win at low levels. Most state boards of tax appeals will rule for the state as long as the matter could possibly be correct.

Did a Maryland Tax Increase Cause Taxpayers to Flee the State?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

An organization called ChangeMaryland has a new study that states that 31,000 individuals left the state from 2007 to 2010. ChangeMaryland believes that it’s the tax hikes in the state that have caused the exodus.

Maryland is a decidedly liberal (“blue”) state with relatively high taxes. The study states that the millionaire’s tax, which ran from 2007 to 2010, cost the state $1.7 billion in tax revenues: Individuals impacted by the tax fled to low-tax states (primarily Florida). As I noted last December, California lost over 720,000 taxpayers and $48 billion of AGI from 1993 to 2008 while the population of the state increased.

There is an obvious conclusion: Tax rates matter, and individuals will move to avoid higher taxes. I’m an example of that, and it appears that many former residents of Maryland are, too.

Sales Tax on Services Under Consideration in Maryland

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

For those who haven’t followed Clayton Financial and Tax, we now have an office in Maryland. Our charges for preparing your return aren’t dependent on whether you’re in our Las Vegas or Bethesda office. However, that may soon change.

Shiela Hixson and James Gilchrist, two Democrats in the Maryland House of Delegates (the lower chamber of Maryland’s legislature) introduced legislation that would add sales tax to 29 different services. The services that would be taxed under this proposed legislation include tax preparation, gyms, cable television, consulting, and dating services.

If this tax passes, the added costs to our business will be passed on to our customers. And, yes, there are always added costs in compliance: The time we will have to spend complying with bureaucratic paperwork.

I haven’t been following Maryland’s budget situation, but I’m sure they (like every state) are facing some shortfalls. The typical Democratic response is to increase revenues, not decrease expenses. That may be one of the reasons “Blue” states find themselves with worse budget situations than “Red” states. However, I might just be too cynical.

[Image of Maryland’s state flag from Wikipedia]

Two Baltimore Bail Bondsmen Found Taxes to be the Least of Their Problems

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Many businesses require licenses. In Maryland, you need a license to be a bail bondsmen (I suspect you do in most states). One of the rules in Maryland is that you can’t be a convicted felon if you’re a bail bondsmen.

Milton Tillman Jr. and his son, Milton Tillman III, had a problem. The elder Tillman had a felony conviction, and they were the owners of Four Aces Bail Bonds in Baltimore. The business was doing quite well, but the elder Tillman couldn’t legally run the business. Now, you and I probably would have never gone into the business given that issue. Alternatively, we’d sell the business so that we could be in compliance with the law.

The Tillmans decided that one felony deserved another: They decided not to pay income tax on their business. With the business being profitable, that’s another problem…especially when you owe the IRS somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million. Things only got worse when the government listened in on a conversation where the father described how he was going to hide his running of the business, and how he would transfer money out of the business.


Both Tillmans pleaded guilty earlier this year. The elder Tillman pleaded guilty to three counts (filing a false tax return, wire fraud, and working as a bail bondsman as a felon); the younger Tillman faced solely a tax charge and will be able to remain in the bail bond business. The elder Tillman will enjoy 51 months at ClubFed. Both Tillmans will need to make restitution to the IRS of the tax due to the government.

A Bong Tax

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

If a Maryland State Senator has his way, buyers of bongs in Maryland will soon have to pay a special tax. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince Geoerge’s County) introduced two bills on Wednesday that would add a $20 tax for all tobacco accessories except rolling paper.

For those who don’t know a bong is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco or cannabis (marijuana). Senator Muse would have preferred to outlaw the accessories completely; he believes that they are “drug paraphernalia—not tobacco paraphernalia.” His measures would also require stores selling such items to check id’s and record purchasers names.

Senator Muse’s measures will face committee hearings in the Maryland legislature before coming up for any votes.

Maryland Tax Increases Are a Go

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Yesterday, Judge Thomas F. Stansfield dismissed the lawsuit challenging Maryland’s $2 billion tax increase. “Although the Court is inclined to agree with the Plaintiffs regarding the reprehensible nature in which the Legislature conducted itself, the remedy they seek in redress is too drastic a notion to accept,” the judge said.

The five Republican lawmakers and the Carroll County (MD) businessman who brought the suit will decide today whether or not to appeal the decision.