Week Ending Sept. 10, 2021

Sep 10, 2021

School Mask Mandate Battle Coming to Harrisburg

The quiet corridors of the state capitol in Harrisburg are about to get noisier sooner than anticipated. State lawmakers are expected to return earlier than scheduled to address Gov. Tom Wolf’s mask mandate for public schools to combat the coronavirus.  

State Republican leaders in the House and Senate wrote a letter to Wolf and Alison Beam, acting health secretary, seeking more specific COVID-19 data from the administration. The letter reads in part, “We are writing to request from you receipt of more specific COVID-19 data daily updates, to include not only new COVID-19 case numbers, number of patients hospitalized, and percentage recovered as specified on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard; but specific data that includes breakout information for cases regarding individuals age 18 and under. It is also important that we are able to review metrics that include case counts for individuals who are unvaccinated as well as vaccinated or partially vaccinated.”

House lawmakers are now scheduled to return to session on Sept. 20. Members had been scheduled to return on Sept. 27. The Senate already had a Sept. 20 return date scheduled.


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State DOR Business Tax Notice of Penalty Adjustment

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (DOR) has developed a handout that provides information on the Notice of Penalty Adjustment. The DOR will send this notice to taxpayers when relief has been granted for first-time recipients of a penalty for one of the following three reasons:

  • Bad payment fee
  • Electronic funds transfer (EFT) penalty
  • Late filing penalty

Recipients of these letters will be business taxpayers who file for sales, employer withholding, or corporation taxes and have never received the penalty in the past. This new process eliminates the need for customers to file a petition with the Board of Appeals.

In addition, the DOR shared with the PICPA a list of key contact phone numbers and email addresses. They can be found here.


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AICPA Encourages Engagement in IRS Penalty Relief Campaign

On a recent AICPA townhall, Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the AICPA, announced the “Penalty Relief Social Media Campaign.” The coronavirus pandemic continues to cause hardships, and CPAs and financial professionals have been just as impacted. The campaign encourages individuals to share their stories, specifically how IRS penalties have made an already difficult 2020 and 2021 even harder. The push for penalty relief supports a forthcoming federal bill that offers targeted relief from the underpayment of estimated tax penalty.

Although the target campaign dates have passed, we encourage you to check AICPA’s social media channels for shareable content or to share your own stories and tag @AICPA on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also tag the PICPA,  IRS (@IRS), a news outlet (e.g., @WSJ), and your member of Congress (Click these links to find your member of Congress and their Twitter handle).


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Senators Propose Bipartisan Election Reform Measure

State Sens. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) are seeking cosponsors for legislation that implements the recommendations of the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform. The senators are chair and democratic chair of the Senate State Government Committee.

The Argall-Street bill addresses an array of topics, including precanvassing mail-in ballots, tracking mail-in ballots, counting mail-in ballots, application deadlines, elimination of the permanent mail-in list, real-time reporting of deceased voters, drop boxes, and the training of election workers.

The legislation is the result of hearings from a variety of stakeholders, including election officials in Pennsylvania and nationally from both parties and the public, by the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform.

The senators note that while more controversial recommendations such as voter ID requirements may be addressed by other pieces of legislation, their legislation will implement recommendations that have broader, bipartisan support.


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Professional Licensing Reform for Veterans, Service Members, Spouses

A group of state House lawmakers is proposing legislation to remove barriers to obtaining a professional license by military persons and their families.

Sponsored by Reps. Zachary Mako (R-Northampton), David Hickernell (R-Lancaster), Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny), Karen Boback (R-Luzerne) and Chris Sainato (D-Lawrence), the legislation would accomplish the following:

  • Increase presence of veterans and military spouses on licensing boards and commissions
  • Expedite application review for veterans and military spouses, and wave initial licensure fees for military spouses when traveling to Pennsylvania
  • Consider military experience acquired when determining if a military person meets the qualification for licensure
  • Use the Military Occupational Codes Crosswalk to help translate military experience into civilian licensure requirements
  • Early submission for license renewals of those military persons being deployed to allow them to immediately return to employment upon discharge

The legislation will require Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to conduct an annual report and deliver it to the legislative committees.


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DeFoor Launches Initiative Designed to Improve Services

Auditor General Timothy DeFoor announced an initiative to modernize his department’s operations to better serve taxpayers and appointed department veteran Tracie Fountain to serve as chief transformation officer.

DeFoor noted that despite receiving a modest funding increase in the most recent state budget, the department continues to operate at roughly the same funding level it had in 1997, but with many fewer employees. The department’s appropriation for the current fiscal year is about $38.8 million.

The first phase of the transformation project will involve an assessment of the organization aimed at analyzing workflow processes, skills gaps, training needs, and technology requirements. It also will include asking employees for their input.

Fountain is a CPA with more than 30 years of service to the department, and currently serves as an audit bureau director for children and youth services.


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August State Revenue Collections Strong

Pennsylvania collected $2.6 billion in General Fund revenue in August, which was $135.5 million, or 5.6%, more than anticipated, reports the Department of Revenue. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $5.3 billion, which is $132.4 million, or 2.6%, above estimate.

According to the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) August Monthly Revenue Update, actual collections were $71.5 million above its projections. The report also compares collections to the prior year. August 2021 General Fund revenues of $2.57 billion reflect an increase of $25.9 million (1.0%) compared to the same month in the prior year.

Sales tax receipts totaled $1.1 billion for August, $49.3 million above estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $2.3 billion, which is $49.3 million, or 2.1%, more than anticipated.

Personal income tax (PIT) revenue in August was $978.8 million, $67.1 million above estimate. This brings year-to-date PIT collections to $1.9 billion, which is $67.2 million, or 3.6%, above estimate.

August corporation tax revenue of $112.1 million was $27.0 million above estimate. Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $302.5 million, which is $23.7 million, or 8.5%, above estimate.

Inheritance tax revenue for the month was $110.0 million, $12.5 million below estimate. This brings the year-to-date total to $227.2 million, which is $12.6 million, or 5.3%, below estimate.

Realty transfer tax revenue was $72.3 million for August, $1.6 million above estimate. The fiscal-year total is $106.3 million, which is $1.5 million, or 1.5%, more than anticipated.

Other General Fund tax revenue – including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor, and gaming taxes – totaled $173.0 million for the month, $2.4 million above estimate. This brings the year-to-date total to $306.6 million, which is $2.5 million, or 0.8%, above estimate.

Nontax revenue totaled $18.3 million for the month, $0.7 million above estimate. The year-to-date total is $46.7 million, which is $0.8 million, or 1.7%, above estimate. 


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Sen. Browne in Accident, Full Recovery Expected

On Aug. 31, state Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), a PICPA member, suffered a motorcycle accident in Colorado enroute to a photography event he was scheduled to participate in.

His condition is stable. With the support of his family, Browne is currently undergoing rehabilitation for his injuries and is expected to return to Pennsylvania in the coming weeks.

Browne suffered a concussion and received surgical intervention for a fractured neck and broken orbital bone. He was helmeted, and due to the prompt and talented trauma team, Browne is expected to have a full recovery.

The PICPA wishes Sen. Browne a speedy recovery. 


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