Oct 15, 2018

Inside the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

Peter CalcaraBy Peter N. Calcara, vice president – government relations

The PICPA and members of the State Taxation Committee meet regularly with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR) to resolve issues and work together to better serve the state’s taxpayers. One of the highlights of the committee’s outreach effort is the annual Q&A with the DOR. This year, the meeting will be broadcast live on Oct. 24 as a PICPA member service. To provide some insight into this meeting, I sat down with Jeff Spengler, CPA, chair of the State Taxation Committee.

Jeff Spengler, CPA

Jeffrey J. Spengler, CPA, Partner
Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP

PICPA: What usually happens at meetings with the DOR?

Spengler: In advance of the meeting, we provide the Department of Revenue with questions that have been generated by State Taxation Committee members based on current issues. The Department then has sufficient time to research and reach out to the appropriate, responsible parties, as well as to reach back out to the committee for any clarifications. During the meeting the questions are reviewed and, if appropriate, additional commentary is given should the topic warrant. The Department may also bring guests who will provide updates on current events within the Department. Last year, Secretary Daniel Hassell was in attendance along with several members of his staff, including then Deputy Secretary for Taxation John Kaschak.

What was the motivation to make this available to all members?

The Q&A has always been available to the members as a posting on the PICPA website. However, as information becomes more readily available, along with technological advances, this broadcast just seemed to make sense. We are excited that the Department has agreed to the broadcast: in fact, they have typically been open to increased dialogue among a wider audience.
(Note: You can find past questions here. This resource has been accessed more than 1,300 times since May 1.)

How does the committee pick the questions that they submit to the DOR?

Typically, committee members pose questions that always seem to hit on the highlights of the times, including recent or pending changes. Committee members may also canvas others within their firms or networks for areas where there may be issues. Hopefully, no systemic troubling issues come up. That said, unless the Department hears otherwise from practitioners, things will be assumed to be OK.

Are there any particular questions that the committee has submitted this year to which you are looking forward to the response?

I will be particularly interested in hearing how the Department will be handling items from last December’s federal tax reform. The Department not only provides the answer, but also supports the answer by citing the code or regulations.

If members have questions, what guidelines would you recommend that would make this appropriate in this venue?

Always be respectful of their response. The Department would like to have clarity and a forum for open dialogue among the practitioners. The PICPA government relations team in Harrisburg has done a fantastic job in building the relationships so that the Department respects and values the input/information the PICPA can provide. Questions not posed in advance may be difficult to answer during the meeting, as the Department will not want to be on record without proper vetting and any necessary research to ensure a correct response.

Any last comments?

This meeting helps build relationships and offers insight into the Department’s process. If time permits, Department of Revenue representatives may offer additional insight into current projects or other areas where the Department would like to provide guidance in order to increase compliance and decrease notices. A good working relationship helps to make all of our lives easier.

The Q&A with the DOR is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, and is open to PICPA members only. You can sign up on PICPA’s website. Transcripts going back to meetings in 2010 can be found in the advocacy section of PICPA’s website.

Jeffrey J. Spengler, CPA, is a partner with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP. He currently serves as a PICPA vice president and chair of the State Taxation Committee.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.
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