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Tax Season Advocacy in Full Swing at NYSSCPA

Joanne S. Barry, CAE

Ever since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed on December 22, 2017, tax professionals have been poring over the new law—that is, the new tax code—like so many tea leaf–reading diviners, trying to decipher the impact on their clients so that they can help them plan ahead for the 2018 tax season.

We're helping tax practitioners along by holding conferences and seminars exploring these issues. Our sold out, full-day Sid Kess Workshop (presented by The CPA Journal) on January 31 featured nationally renowned tax experts opining on the impact of the TCJA on multiple industries (thank you, Sid, for all of your help!). The NYSSCPA was invited to participate in a tax expert roundtable discussion with members of Governor Cuomo's administration and representatives from the Business Council of New York, New York Conference of Mayors, AFL-CIO, New York State Association of Counties, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Fiscal Policy Institute, Partnership for New York City, and others. Phil London, the chair of the Society's New York, Multistate, and Local Taxation Committee, was also in attendance, representing the NYSSCPA and its TCJA Ad Hoc Committee, established to evaluate all proposed and regulatory initiatives emerging from Albany that address the effects of the TCJA.

The NYSSCPA also continues to monitor tax filing issues with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF). We have good news on one front: The DTF confirmed in December that it will continue to allow tax preparers e-filing New York returns with the department to click the “No Applicable ID” box if a client refuses to provide a practitioner with driver's license information. While we remain concerned that the rule makes tax accountants high-value targets for hackers, we are glad to know that they at least won't lose clients if they refuse to provide the information. Any practitioner with a client who does refuse to provide driver license information should maintain documentation to prove due diligence was used to obtain the information and the client refused. More information can be found on the DTF's website at https://www.tax.ny.gov/tp/driverlicense.htm.

Tax professionals who were successful last year in persuading all of their clients to provide their driver license information are on the right side of the law, but may have to collect this information again this year. That's because New York is only one of three states that does not allow tax software providers to transfer certain pro forma data, including driver license information and tax withholding ID information, from one year to the next. We've placed that item on our legislative agenda and are exploring ways to reduce that burden on New York's tax practitioners.

Another issue on our tax advocacy agenda is allowing for e-signatures for certain tax forms filed with the DTF. Currently, clients must physically sign certain income tax filing forms, creating a burden on filers that runs antithetical to the DTF's motive for digitizing the tax filing process. This issue was brought to my attention through our town hall visits, highlighting the importance of participation at chapter events.

Finally, we have refund delays. No one—taxpayers, preparers, or regulators—wants these. But they keep happening, mostly after the DTF requests additional information from a taxpayer when processing a return. The information is provided in a timely manner, but that refund may not come for six months, leaving clients to wonder if their practitioner is somehow to blame for the delay.

The NYSSCPA has a longstanding positive relationship with acting Tax Commissioner Nonie Manion and her team, thanks to the members of our New York, Multistate, and Local Taxation Committee, so we are working with the DTF to develop solutions for New York practitioners.

The NYSSCPA is your tax advocate in Albany. If there is an issue that you believe should be on our tax advocacy agenda, please contact me at jbarry@nysscpa.org.

Joanne S. Barry, CAE. Publisher, The CPA Journal, Executive Director & CEO, NYSSCPA.

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