State Lawmakers Convene for Fall Session
The Pennsylvania General Assembly has kicked off its fall legislative session in Harrisburg. Dealing with the aftereffects of the storms spawned by Hurricane Ida and the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response will be high priorities.
On Sept. 22, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan 2021. The plan identifies 18 strategies in electricity generation, transportation, agriculture, fuel supply, and residential and commercial buildings that quantitative modeling shows will meet the state’s climate protection goals. A number of emerging technologies that can help, such as battery storage, also are discussed.
The state House approved legislation that limits school boards’ temporary emergency powers: reducing it from up to four years to 60 days. Beginning with school year 2021-2022, and each school year after, a school board would be permitted to put into operation temporary emergency provisions for 60 days when an emergency results in five consecutive days of being unable to provide in-person instruction. The bill is now pending in the Senate Education Committee.
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission convened on Sept. 21. The commission made an adjustment to its Aug. 24 decision regarding how the residency of prison inmates will be counted when developing new state legislative district maps.
Committees in both chambers have been busy. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony about medical marijuana users and impaired-driver laws, while members of the Senate Transportation Committee questioned Turnpike Commission officials about a $104 million revenue loss last year in uncollected tolls as an all-electronic tolling system went into effect. The House Professional Licensure, Health, and State Government committees all convened voting meetings.
Lawmakers return to session on Sept. 27.
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Pa. Provides More Detail on Filing Extension Due to Ida
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has provided additional guidance on its extension of due dates to file various individual and business tax returns for those affected by the damaging storms arising from Hurricane Ida. The affected areas include Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York counties, but taxpayers in Ida-impacted localities in other parts of Pennsylvania are eligible for the same filing relief. Taxpayers should know that this extension does not apply to tax payments.
Here are important details to keep in mind:
- Various tax return filing deadlines that occur on or after Aug. 31, 2021, have been postponed.
- Those who had a valid extension to file their 2020 Pennsylvania personal income tax return (PA-40) due to run out on Nov. 15, 2021, will now have until Jan. 3, 2022, to file. As noted above, payments related to these 2020 returns are not eligible for an extension. These Pennsylvania income tax payments were due May 17, 2021.
- Businesses and estates/trusts with an original or extended due date also have additional time to file. This includes calendar-year partnerships and S corporations whose 2020 extensions ran out on Sept. 15, 2021; calendar year estates or trusts whose 2020 extensions run out on Sept. 30, 2021; and calendar-year corporations whose 2020 extensions run out on Nov. 15, 2021.
Corporate taxpayers affected by the Ida storms who are filing Form RCT-101 will have more time to file as well. To avoid late-file penalty assessments, RCT-101 taxpayers should email a request to RAfirstname.lastname@example.org on company letterhead and signed by a corporation official. The name and address of the business where the tax records are located and the 10-digit account ID of the taxpayer should be included.
This guidance follows an announcement from the IRS for various individual and business tax returns on the federal level. As the IRS announced, the extension applies to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as qualifying for individual or public assistance. The current list of eligible localities is available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.
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State Lawmakers Extend Ida Disaster Emergency, Access to Aid
State House and Senate lawmakers approved extending the state disaster emergency declared in response to the storms spawned by Hurricane Ida until Oct. 27, giving Pennsylvanians more time to apply for recovery assistance.
Gov. Wolf issued a 21-day proclamation declaring a disaster emergency on Aug. 31. The legislature was needed to extend the emergency because it passed a state constitutional amendment limiting the governor’s authority to extend emergency declarations without approval of the General Assembly.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida brought tornadoes and a deluge of rainfall to parts of Pennsylvania that caused flooding and widespread damage. Nearly 400 roads were closed statewide, while downed trees and limbs disrupted utilities and left more than 15 major interstates, roadways, and expressways closed.
The primary beneficiaries of disaster assistance have been those affected by Ida in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York counties.
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DOR-PICPA Liaison Committee Quarterly Meeting
On Aug. 19, the PICPA Department of Revenue Liaison Thought Leadership Committee – a subcommittee of PICPA’s State Tax Steering Committee – convened a quarterly meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR).
The meeting began with DOR updates on PATH/myPATH. Allison Morgan, project director, discussed the tax system modernization project. The project is progressing, with several tax types/programs having already been implemented, including IFTA/motor carrier, motor and alternative fuel taxes, inheritance tax, reality transfer tax, medical marijuana tax, voluntary disclosure program, personal income tax, property tax/rent rebate, and pass-through entity tax. Remaining business taxes – including corporate net income tax; sales, use, and hotel occupancy taxes; employer withholding taxes; and specialty corporation taxes – have yet to been implemented.
As of Aug. 10, 2021, DOR had received over 6 million PA-40 returns, with about 180,000 having been filed via MyPATH. Additionally, DOR received 437,000 property tax/rent rebate claims, with about 27,000 having been filed via MyPATH. Feedback on the new system has been mostly positive. Additional information on the MyPATH tax modernization rollout is online.
John Kaschak, CPA, CGMA, CISA, deputy secretary of revenue, provided an update on DOR operations. The programmatic and enforcement operations that were on hiatus due to COVID-19 have returned to normal. Kaschak reported that, while staff is fully functioning, DOR was under a hiring freeze and unable to fill upward of 150 vacancies. DOR is in the process of filling those positions, but continues to be short staffed. Thus, turnaround time continues to be a bit slower.
Amy Gill, deputy secretary for tax policy, provided an update on several policies and regulations DOR is working on. She reported that there are four regulations nearing the finish line, and DOR is in the process of revising its telework guidance due to be released this fall.
The bulk of the meeting consisted of DOR providing answers to questions PICPA members submitted in advance of the meeting. The full transcript from the meeting is available on PICPA’s website.
Members are encouraged to submit questions for future meetings with the DOR. Email Annette Knapp at email@example.com.
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Modernization of BPOA Legislation Gets Favorable Vote in Committee
Earlier this month, Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R-Bucks) introduced Senate Bill 869. The legislation would permanently allow the 29 boards and commissions under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) to use public virtual board meetings, establish quorums through public virtual means, provide licensees with an opportunity to receive virtual continuing education, and permit certain individuals who need clinical or supervision hours for licensure to be supervised virtually.
Throughout COVID-19, the boards and commissions had to adjust how they conducted business to meet the needs of their licensees. To accommodate these changes and allow operations to continue, waivers were put in place. For the most part, these waivers were specific to addressing the pandemic. However, several have been identified as measures that should remain in place to allow for more modernized board operations. This legislation grants each board and commission the flexibility to determine how they can best meet the needs of licensees as it relates to continuing education.
Senate Bill 869 was voted favorably from the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee and will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
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Bill Proposes $100 Million in Broadband Expansion
Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) introduced legislation to commit $100 million in federal stimulus funding in an effort to bring additional high-speed internet service to rural communities across the state.
House Bill 1766 would direct $100 million in federal funding to the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program created last year by the General Assembly. The program provides grants in support of broadband expansion in areas most in need of these services. Initial funding came from a repeal of the $5 million Mobile Telecommunications Broadband Investment Tax Credit.
The grant program is being administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Preference is given to applicants with projects in the most underserved areas of Pennsylvania, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum speed requirements, and to projects that already have federal funding allocated to them.
The bill is pending consideration by the House Consumer Affairs Committee.
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No Job Gains in August as Federal UC Benefits Neared Expiration
An Independent Fiscal Office report shows that Pennsylvania’s labor market contracted slightly in August on a year-over-year basis relative to a no-pandemic scenario. For August, the computed year-over-year change in payroll jobs is -362,000, compared with -358,300 for July. According to the report, these data reflect the final month of federal unemployment compensation benefits.
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