Week Ending March 19, 2021

Mar 19, 2021

Pennsylvania Extends Tax Filing Deadline to May 17

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR) announced that the deadline for taxpayers to file their 2020 Pennsylvania personal income tax returns and make final 2020 income tax payments has been extended to May 17, 2021. Taxpayers now have an additional month to file. The IRS also announced that it would extend the federal income tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 17.

The IRS said its action will help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Pennsylvania law, the deadline for filing state income tax returns is tied to the deadline set at the federal level.

"This is a positive step that provides additional time to Pennsylvania taxpayers, many of whom have been struggling during the last year due to the pandemic," Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said.

To be clear, the extension means the DOR will waive penalties and interest on final 2020 personal income tax returns and payments through the new deadline of May 17. Those who make estimated income tax payments should continue to do so on the same filing schedule that they would normally follow. This includes taxpayers with estimated tax payments due on April 15, 2021. Taxes must be paid as taxpayers earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments.

Although the filing deadline has been extended, the DOR is encouraging taxpayers who are able to file their 2020 tax returns electronically to do so as soon as possible. If you are expecting a refund from the commonwealth, filing electronically will help avoid a delay in the release of your refund, notes the DOR.

The DOR encourages taxpayers to electronically file Pennsylvania personal income tax returns via its new myPATH system. An updated user guide was recently released.

In a recent Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-11) highlighted the PICPA’s efforts in getting the tax deadline postponed. Check out the video (Smucker's comments begin at the 1:27:20 mark). 


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PICPA-Backed Advisory Opinion Bill Clears Committee

The state House Professional Licensure Committee unanimously approved a bill supported by the PICPA that permits CPAs and other licensed professionals to receive advice from their licensing boards.

House Bill 325, sponsored by PICPA member Rep. Keith Greiner, CPA (R-Lancaster), gives boards and commissions under the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) the authority to issue an advisory opinion, upon request of a licensee, concerning the meaning or interpretation of an act or regulation pertaining to the license, registration, certificate, or permit issued by such board. Under the legislation, no person who acts in good faith on an advisory opinion issued by a licensing board or commission shall be subject to criminal or civil penalties or any disciplinary action by the board or commission, provided that the material facts are as stated in the opinion request.

Greiner’s proposal will allow boards to answer inquiries in the form of an advisory opinion, which would be legally nonbinding. Many violations could be avoided because licensees would have the means to predetermine if an action is permissible. A licensee will no longer be forced to guess at whether an act is permitted, and it will allow the board to provide the guidance a licensee needs when completing his or her due diligence.

The bill is before the full House for a vote.


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Pa. Senators Announce Legislative Proposals to Help Small Businesses

State Sens. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), Judy Ward (R-Blair), and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) announced their Prioritize PA: Small Businesses plan, a package of bills designed to support small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prioritize PA package includes no-interest loans to struggling small businesses, a tax credit program modeled after the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program, a temporary waiver of fees for various state licensing, the ability to deduct property taxes from the state’s corporate net income or personal income tax liability, and a three-year option to offset earnings from prior years or future years against current year losses and get refunds for prior years (carryback) or cut future tax bills (carryforward).

Also in the package is Senate Bill 368, sponsored by Bartolotta and Ward, that would update state tax laws to provide critical assistance to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to small business relief, the package also includes two bills sponsored by Phillips-Hill. The first, Senate Bill 32, proposes regulatory reform within state government agencies. The second, Senate Bill 299, would streamline sales tax return filing with the Department of Revenue. Both bills have been referred to committees in the Senate.


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Ryan Bill Would Provide a Clearer Picture of State Finances

The Pennsylvania House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) that would give the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) dynamic scoring capability, which would enable it to produce more informative and impactful calculations to help state lawmakers make more informed decisions concerning Pennsylvania’s financial future.

House Bill 230 would strengthen the analytics used by our IFO to more effectively identify economic options and alternatives,” Ryan said. “We have a number of issues in Pennsylvania that we identify as critical risk factors. Dynamic scoring capability would enable us to weigh the implications of those risk factors and determine the best course of action.”

Dynamic scoring capability in House Bill 230 would enable the IFO to scrutinize the fiscal impact of any legislation involving state expenditures over $50 million. It would require the IFO to include in its revenue estimates the likely behavioral responses of taxpayers, businesses, and others in response to proposed changes, as well as a statement that outlines those assumptions.

House Bill 230 passed by a vote of 128-74. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. 

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Legislative Leaders Name Reapportionment Commission Members

Pennsylvania’s process of adjusting state legislative districts is officially underway. Republican leaders in the legislature formally announced their appointments to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.

House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-Centre) announced the appointments of Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), majority leaders of the Senate and House respectively, and Sen. Jay Costa (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), minority leaders of the Senate and House respectively, to the commission as is required by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that following the federal decennial census, a commission shall be constituted for the purpose of reapportioning representation within the commonwealth. The commission is made up of majority and minority leaders of both the Senate and the House. A fifth member, who will serve as a chair, is selected by the commission members.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission works strictly on legislative districts for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Redistricting for U.S. Congressional representation is completed in a separate process.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that final results may not be available until the fall of 2021. 


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Bar, Restaurant Owners Transition Bill Wins Committee Approval

The House Liquor Control Committee approved legislation to help bar and restaurant owners who have closed their doors.

House Bill 425, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette/Somerset), would allow a liquor licensee whose business has closed permanently to sell any remaining liquor or wine to another licensee who is qualified to sell such products. Current law only permits a licensee to sell leftover product to the entity that purchases his or her liquor license.

Under the bill, the closing licensee would be required to contact the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) in writing and provide the name of the purchasing licensee and identify the product sold, as well as the description of the liquor, including brand names, sizes, and number of containers.

The measure is an expansion of Act 21 of 2020, which allows a licensee to sell liquor to another licensee during the COVID-19 crisis.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.


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State Rep. Jeff Pyle Retires; Special Election Date Announced

Republican Rep. Jeff Pyle announced his retirement as a member of the state House effective March 16, 2021, due to health issues. Pyle represents the 60th District, which includes parts of Armstrong, Indiana, and Butler counties. Pyle was first elected to the House in November 2004 and has served two sessions as chair of the House Liquor Control Committee. He previously chaired the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) ordered a special election to fill the seat to coincide with Pennsylvania’s primary election on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in conjunction with a special election to fill the vacant seat in the 59th District created by the death of Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland/Somerset). Two other special election dates were also announced by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Special elections for the vacant senatorial seats in Lackawanna County (22nd District) and Lebanon County (48th District) also will be held May 18. The seat in the 22nd District was recently vacated by Sen. John Blake; the seat in the 48th District is vacant due to the January death of Sen. Dave Arnold.


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