Week Ending March 27, 2020

Mar 27, 2020


Gov. Wolf Signs Legislation Extending State Tax Due Dates

State Senate and House lawmakers moved quickly to approve legislation that provides additional funding to health care facilities to purchase medical supplies and equipment and extends the deadline for certain state and local income tax payments and filings. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the legislation into law on March 27.

(Read more in “Pa. General Assembly Gives Dept. of Revenue Authority to Extend Filing and Payment Dates,” a CPA Now by Peter Calcara, PICPA vice president, government relations.)

House Bill 1232, sponsored by Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), extends the deadline for individuals who are required to declare and pay estimated state personal income tax as well as delays the filing of informational returns for Pennsylvania S corporations and partnerships, estates, and trusts. The legislation also authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to coordinate with local political subdivisions to extend filing and payment deadlines for the local Earned Income Tax. The deadlines have been extended to July 15, 2020.

Additionally, House Bill 1232 would provide up to $50 million of additional funding to health care facilities for the sole purpose of buying medical equipment and supplies to address the increased demands that COVID-19 could place on the entire health care system. The new money will help health care facilities better meet the needs of patients and staff.

In addition, the bill would extend temporary regulations related to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis industry until November 2021. The sections authorizing the Department of Revenue and DCED to extend tax filing and payment dates expire July 31, 2020.

 

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PICPA to Host Discussion with Revenue Secretary Hassell

The PICPA will host Secretary of Revenue C. Daniel Hassell for a one-hour session at 10:00 a.m. on March 31. Hassell and senior members of his team will discuss the new regulatory environment brought on by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the state’s response to the crisis. The session will provide an overview of the department’s response, revised filing procedures and deadlines, and answers to your questions.

Registration is free for PICPA members and nonmembers. This webinar is informational only and does not qualify for CPE.

 

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Ryan Unemployment Bill Signed by Governor

A bill sponsored by PICPA member Rep. Frank Ryan, CPA (R-Lebanon), that would provide relief to businesses and their employees impacted by the mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus was signed by Gov. Wolf on March 27.

House Bill 68 makes temporary changes to Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) law to ease requirements for both employers and their workers seeking unemployment relief. For employers who do not participate in the state’s UC program, Ryan’s bill expands the repayment period from 30 days to 120 days. An additional 60 days (interest free) may be granted to employers claiming a financial hardship. No interest would be charged on late payments, nor would it accrue on unpaid balances until Jan. 1, 2021.

Congress recently passed legislation to provide up to $37.8 million in federal funding for extended unemployment benefits. Ryan’s bill authorizes the Secretary of Labor and Industry to enact emergency regulations needed to comply with the requirements for federal assistance and requires monthly reports to the General Assembly on UC activity and statutory changes needed to comply with federal law.

 

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Financial Assistance Announced for Small Businesses

Gov. Tom Wolf announced that new funding is available to help small businesses devastated by the novel coronavirus through the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA), a new program under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s (PIDA) Small Business First Fund. The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently authorized the transfer of $40 million to the Small Business First Fund for CWCA. PIDA authorized making $60 million available to provide loans of $100,000 or less to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. Funds are expected to become available this week.

For the purposes of this program, a retail or service enterprise is defined as a for-profit business entity that is involved in business-to-business service, business-to-public service, mercantile, commercial, or point-of-sale retail sectors. An agricultural producer is defined as a business involved in the management and use of a normal agricultural operation for the production of a farm commodity. A “farm commodity” is any Pennsylvania-grown agricultural, horticultural, aquacultural, vegetable, fruit, and floricultural product of the soil, livestock and meats, wools, hides, furs, poultry, eggs, dairy products, nuts, mushrooms, honey products, and forest products.

Eligible costs include working capital, which for purposes of this program is considered capital used by a small business for operations, excluding fixed-assets and production machinery and equipment.

Any eligible working capital cost, as defined above, incurred by the eligible business enterprise three months prior to submission of the loan application will count as an eligible cost toward either the loan amount or, if applicable, the matching investment requirement. Retail/service enterprises are able to incur eligible working capital costs up to six months prior to submission of the loan application.

 

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Bills on Moving the Primary Election, Waiving Education Requirements Signed by Governor

Lawmakers approved legislation that postpones Pennsylvania’s primary election and updates the state School Code to waive a number of mandates on schools that cannot be fulfilled under the current stay-at-home orders resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Bill 422, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver, Butler, Lawrence), moves Pennsylvania’s primary election from April 28 to June 2. The bill would also give county election officials authority to close, relocate, or consolidate polling places due to a potential shortage of available volunteers and venues. Volunteers could also be drawn from anywhere in the county; previous law mandated that volunteers had to be from the same election district.

In addition, the bill would allow county election officials to begin processing absentee ballots earlier to ensure election results can be reported earlier, so long as the results are not published or officially recorded. Counties could also continue to use previously printed ballots with the April 28 primary date.

Senate Bill 751, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), would waive the requirement that all public schools must be open at least 180 days per school year. The bill gives the Secretary of Education the authority to waive similar restrictions for career and technical schools and pre-kindergarten instruction.

The bill would also give the Secretary of Education authorization to increase the number of flexible instruction days that may be used by a school district and waive other requirements for educator preparation programs and assessment exams for career and technical students. It also guarantees that teachers will receive the same compensation they would have received if the pandemic had not occurred.

Gov. Wolf signed the measures into law on March 27.

 

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State Lawmakers Respond to COVID-19

As the cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Pennsylvania, several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the crisis are in the works in the General Assembly.

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) will introduce legislation to help provide relief to local taxpayers and give greater flexibility to county and municipal governments during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Martin’s bill would give local governments the authority to extend their property tax discount periods and base periods. The bill would also allow county and municipal governments to remove penalties for payments through Dec. 31, 2020.

Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) plans to introduce legislation that directs the Department of Revenue and Treasury to process 2019 rebate payments for all homeowners and renters who received a 2018 rebate, and to issue those payments immediately.

Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) plans to introduce a bill package that would waive interest on student loans through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency until further notice, and would waive interest for loans issued by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency until further notice. The goal is to protect workers and homeowners during this time of reduced employment.

Reps. David Rowe (R-Union/Snyder) and Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) plan to introduce legislation to help those who have been adversely impacted by the governor's declaration of an emergency and implementation of statewide protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVD-19. To ease financial burdens and increase the purchasing power of Pennsylvania taxpayers, this legislation will suspend the imposition of and collection of sales tax and personal income tax until the disaster declaration is lifted.

Rep. Anita Kulik (D-Allegheny) plans to introduce legislation to extend the deadline to remit sales taxes due to COVID-19. The end of tax season is nearing, and businesses will have to start remitting sales taxes to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. However, with Gov. Wolf’s recent declaration that all non-life-sustaining businesses must close due to the pandemic, business owners are struggling to cope with the sudden loss of income. The money that they would be remitting could potentially help them during this public health emergency. This legislation would allow businesses an extra 45 days to remit sales taxes to the Department of Revenue. This legislation would ensure that businesses have extra time to remit taxes while still requiring their payments within the current fiscal year.

These bills are awaiting formal introduction, and the PICPA is monitoring them closely.

 

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AICPA’s Outstanding CPA in Government Awards

Do you know an outstanding CPA in government? Please consider nominating a worthy colleague for an AICPA Outstanding CPA in Government Award. The nomination period runs through April.

The Outstanding CPA in Government Impact Award recognizes the impact of significant contributions to the efficiency, effectiveness, or innovative service delivery of their respective local, state, or federal employer organization. Current or recent accomplishments are the focus of this award.

The Outstanding CPA in Government Career Contribution Award recognizes significant contributions to the CPA profession via government service at the local, state, or federal level over a candidate’s entire career.

The awards are currently scheduled to be presented at AICPA’s National Governmental Accounting and Auditing Conference (GAAC) in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 17, 2020.

 

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