Week Ending March 20, 2020

Mar 20, 2020


Tax Filing Deadline Extended as Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses Close

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8:00 p.m., March 19, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21. In extenuating circumstances, special exemptions will be granted to businesses supplying or servicing health care providers. Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, & payroll services are considered life sustaining as of Friday, March 20.

The PICPA reached out to the governor on March 19 urging him to extend the Pennsylvania April 15 tax filing and payment deadlines in response to the COVID-19 crisis. On March 20, the IRS extended the individual tax filing deadline to July 15 (from April 15). Pennsylvania automatically extends individuals (PA-40) to July 15 because it is tied to the federal date in our statute. The Department of Revenue (DOR) is waiving penalties for businesses that are required to make accelerated sales tax (AST) prepayments by the deadline of Friday, March 20. Additionally, the DOR is waiving the AST prepayment requirement for April sales tax payments, and is asking businesses to simply remit the sales tax that they have collected in March. Visit the DOR’s page on accelerated sales tax prepayments for more information on how to calculate prepayments.

All businesses are encouraged to remit online using e-TIDES, DOR’s online tax system for businesses. Find the REV-819 on DOR's website for a schedule of return and prepayment due dates.

The PICPA will keep members apprised of additional updates as soon as they are made available. Updates will be posted to our social media channels as well as our website.

Pursuant to the Emergency Management Services Code, the governor is granted extraordinary powers upon his declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19. Among these powers, the governor may control the ingress and egress into the disaster area, the movement of persons, and the occupancy of premises within the disaster area, which has been established to be the entire commonwealth for the COVID-19 disaster emergency. The secretary of the Department of Health separately is authorized under the law to employ measures necessary for the prevention and suppression of disease.

Failure to comply with these requirements could result in citations, fines, or license suspensions.

The governor has directed local officials and the following state agencies to enforce the closure orders to the full extent of the law:

  • Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Pennsylvania State Police

Private businesses, local organizations, and other noncompliant entities that fail or refuse to comply with the governor’s orders will forfeit their ability to receive any applicable disaster relief and/or may be subject to other appropriate administrative action. Such action may include termination of state loans or grant funding, including Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project grant funding and/or suspension or revocation of licensure for violation of the law.  

In addition, the Department of Health is authorized to prosecute noncompliant entities for the failure to comply with health laws, including quarantine, isolation, or other disease control measures. Violators are subject to fines or imprisonment.

Given the rapidly changing circumstances, there is a lot of confusion within the state's business community regarding whether or not their specific business is considered to be "life-sustaining" and allowed to keep its physical location open. The Department of Community and Economic Development has set up two emails regarding this issue. We encourage employers with questions about whether their organization needs to close to contact DCED at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov. The DCED has the following email, RA-dcexemption@pa.gov, for businesses seeking an exemption to the order.

 

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State Funding Approval to Help Small Businesses

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) took the first step in providing relief to Pennsylvania small businesses affected by COVID-19 by authorizing the transfer of $40 million to the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA).

The transferred funds will ultimately be combined with existing funds in PIDA’s Small Business First Program and will be used to provide zero-interest loans to small businesses. Over $60 million for loans will be available to businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees.

Loans of up to $100,000 will be available to small businesses to use as working capital. Interest rates are being dropped from about 3% to 0%. Detailed guidelines for the program are still being developed at this time. In addition to a 0% interest rate, there will be no application fee and the terms will include no payments and no interest during the first year of the loan.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) was established as an independent agency to administer Pennsylvania’s economic stimulus packages. The CFA holds fiduciary responsibility over the funding of programs and investments in Pennsylvania’s economic growth. More information regarding programs administered by the CFA can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development website.

 

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General Assembly Convenes Under Unique Circumstances

In what was expected to be a busy first week of session following budget hearings, state lawmakers instead focused their attention on internal rules changes so that each chamber could continue to conduct business under the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, members of the Pennsylvania House took the historic step of no longer requiring all members to be present on the House floor. Members voted unanimously to adopt a rule change that strengthens the body’s ability to take efficient and effective legislative action during difficult times.

The changes are reflected in three ways:

  • Allows designated voting. Under this temporary rule, members will notify their party’s whip of their voting position on legislation, and the whip (or a member designated by the whip) will file a member’s vote on the House floor. As for the floor itself, only the speaker, leaders, whips, or designated members to those positions would need to be present. The process is the same for committee votes, with the relevant party chair collecting the votes ahead of a scheduled vote.
  • Suspension of legislative time requirements. This temporary rule shortens all required wait periods related to legislation to three hours. Specifically, the 24-hour posting requirement for bills before a committee is now three hours, the 12-hour requirement after a bill is amended on second consideration is now three hours, and the six-hour wait requirement for a bill to be voted on concurrence is now three hours.
  • Blackout mailing period adjustment. Under current rules, no legislative mailing can be sent out within 60 days of an election. The temporary rule passed today lifts the restrictions to allow members to send electronic communications related strictly to COVID-19 information.

State Rep. G. Roni Green (D-Philadelphia) was welcomed as the newest state representative. She won the Feb. 25 special election to represent the 190th legislative district in Philadelphia. Green becomes the 54th female member of the 200 legislators currently serving in the House.

The state Senate took an important step to continue its operations safely by passing a resolution allowing members to vote remotely, according to Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34).

The temporary emergency rules included in Senate Resolution 318 will ensure the Senate can continue voting even when senators cannot be physically present at the capitol in Harrisburg due to coronavirus mitigation efforts ongoing statewide. The resolution creates a mechanism for members to file bills electronically and to participate in committee meetings and session through the use of communications technology. The emergency powers are scheduled to expire July 31, 2020, or 10 days following the expiration of the governor’s emergency order, whichever is sooner.

 

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GOP Rides Special Election Wave in State House Races

Republicans swept three special elections on March 17 to fill seats in the state House.

In the 18th state House seat in Bucks County, Republican K.C. Tomlinson defeated Democrat Harold Hayes. In the 8th district in Mercer County, Republican Tim Bonner defeated Democrat Phil Heasley. Republican Eric Davanzo defeated Democrat Robert Prah Jr., in the 58th district in Washington County. All three seats were retained by the Republican Party.

Republicans hold a 110-93 majority in the state House.

 

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Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the deadline for older adults and Pennsylvania residents with disabilities to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2019 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2020, the Department of Revenue announced on March 19.  

Under Pennsylvania law, the initial deadline for the filing of applications for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is June 30. The Department of Revenue typically evaluates the program as the statutory June 30 application deadline approaches to determine if funds are available to extend the deadline. Due to the recent closure of commonwealth offices and to give applicants more time, the deadline is being extended earlier than usual this year.

Distribution of rebates will begin no earlier than July 1, as required by law. Rebates are distributed as claims are received and processed. As a reminder, applicants are required to submit their bank account information on their application forms to receive their rebates through direct deposit.

It is free to apply for a rebate, and applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information on the Department of Revenue’s website.

Starting in late April, claimants who already applied for rebates may check their Property Tax/Rent Rebate Status online or call, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES.

Visit the department’s Online Customer Service Center to find helpful tips and answers to commonly asked questions about the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

 

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Board of Finance and Revenue Issues Guidance

Pennsylvania Treasury and the Board of Finance and Revenue (BF&R) are preparing contingency plans to protect its employees and persons appearing before the board from the health threat posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19). BF&R’s primary objective is to keep practitioners, the general public, and its employees safe. Consequently, the BF&R may be compelled to take actions to mitigate any health risks. Such adjustments may include temporarily teleworking and adjusting future public hearing schedules and deadlines. As may be appropriate, deadline extensions related to filings and administrative decisions impacted by any office closure or workplace access limitation will be granted by the board.

Until further notice, please submit all questions and file all petitions electronically at bfr@patreasury.gov.

 

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Malt Beverage Tax Credit Application Deadline Fast Approaching

The Pennsylvania Malt Beverage Tax Credit Program is currently accepting applications. The application deadline is April 1, 2020.

 

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