Maryland Offers Attractive Amnesty Program – Even for Taxpayers Under Audit!

By , and on April 23, 2015

Starting September 1, 2015, the Comptroller of Maryland (Comptroller) will offer qualifying taxpayers that failed to file or pay certain taxes an opportunity to remit tax under very attractive penalty and interest terms.  The 2015 Tax Amnesty Program (Program) is the first offered in Maryland since 2009, when the state raised nearly $30 million, not including approximately $20 million collected the following year under approved payment plans.  The amnesty program offered before that (in 2001) brought in $39.4 million.  Consistent with the Maryland amnesty programs offered in the past, the Program will apply to the state and local individual income tax, corporate income tax, withholding taxes, sales and use taxes, and admissions and amusement taxes.

The Program was made law by Governor Larry Hogan when he signed Senate Bill 763, available here, after two months of deliberation in the legislature.  While the Program is scheduled to run through October 30, 2015, the Comptroller has a history of informally extending these programs beyond their codified period.  For companies that are nervous about potential assessments following the Gore and ConAgra decisions, the amnesty offers an opportunity that should be evaluated.

Perks  

The Program’s main benefits include:

  1. Waiver of 50 percent of the interest;
  2. Waiver of all civil penalties (except previously assessed fraud penalties); and
  3. A bar on all criminal prosecutions arising from filing the delinquent return unless the charge is already pending or under investigation by a state prosecutor.

Qualification

The Program is open to almost all businesses, even if under audit or in litigation.  The statute provides for only two classifications of taxpayers that do not qualify:

  1. Taxpayers granted amnesty under a Maryland Amnesty Program held between 1999-2014; and
  2. Taxpayers eligible for the 2004 post-SYL settlement period relating to Delaware Holding Companies.

Because the Program’s enacting statute does not prohibit participants from being under audit, or even those engaged in litigation with the Comptroller, even taxpayers with known issues and controversy may find the amnesty an attractive vehicle to reach resolution of a controversy with the state.

Practice Note

Because the range of taxpayers eligible for the Program is so broad, we encourage all businesses to evaluate whether participation will benefit them.  Given that past Maryland amnesty programs excluded taxpayers over a certain size (based on employee count), large companies who were not able to resolve uncertain exposure in the state should evaluate this new offering.  If your business is currently under audit (or concerned about any tax obligations from previous years), please contact the authors to evaluate whether the Program is right for you.

Diann SmithDiann Smith
Diann Smith focuses her practice on state and local taxation and unclaimed property advocacy. Diann advises clients at any stage of an issue, including planning, compliance, controversy, financial statement issues and legislative activity. Her goal is to find the most effective method to achieve a client's objective regardless of when or how an issue arises. Diann emphasizes the importance of defining a client's objective - whether it is finality of a frequently audited issue, quick resolution of a stand-alone tax liability, or avoiding competitive disadvantages in the application of a tax. The defined objective then governs the choice of the path to a solution. Read Diann Smith's full bio.


Eric CarstensEric Carstens
  Eric D. Carstens focuses his practice on state and local tax matters, assisting clients with state tax controversy, compliance and multistate planning across all states for a variety of tax types and unclaimed property. Eric engages in all forms of taxpayer advocacy, including litigation, legislative monitoring and audit defense. He works closely with several of the Firm's taxpayer coalitions focused on specific state tax policy issues such as the taxation of digital goods and services and unclaimed property. Read Eric D. Carstens' full bio.


Stephen P. KranzStephen P. Kranz
Stephen (Steve) P. Kranz is a tax lawyer who solves tax problems differently. Over the course of his extensive career, Steve has acquired specific skills and developed a unique approach that helps clients develop and implement holistic solutions to all varieties of tax problems. He combines strategic thinking with effective skills for the courtroom, the statehouse and the conference room. Read Stephen P. Kranz's full bio.

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