Legislative News

09/24/2020

Economic Roundtable on Fiscal State of Massachusetts (10/7)

Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Aaron Michlewitz, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, and Michael Heffernan, secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, have scheduled an October 7 economic roundtable to discuss the current fiscal state of Massachusetts, how to best move forward in FY21 and plan for FY22.

As a follow-up to the first roundtable in April, the budget chiefs will convene a group of economic and financial experts to present their latest budget and revenue projections based on factors such as stronger-than-anticipated tax collections in FY21, potential federal funding, the stabilization fund and more. It is largely believed that Massachusetts faces a $5 - $6 billion revenue shortfall over the next year, although one recent report suggested that financial gap could be closer to $1.6 billion.

The FY21 budget is expected to be announced in mid-October, following the reports presented at the October 7 roundtable. We will update you once we know more.

Remote access to the roundtable will be posted here as we get closer to the date.

Massachusetts Registered Voters May Request a Ballot Online

In September, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin launched mailmyballotma.com in an effort to streamline ballot applications and provide a more efficient process for local town and city election officials to mail general election ballots to all registered voters requesting a ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Elections Division recommends that those planning to vote by mail for the November 3 general election to apply for a ballot no later than October 20.

For more information and a list of voter resources, click here.

Free Webinar: PPP Loan Forgiveness: Where Are We Now? (9/29)

Join us next Tuesday, September 29 as we walk through Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) guidance for business owners. We'll discuss changes to the PPP loan program as they arise, submitting paperwork for forgiveness and how best to help your own firm, as well as your small business clients, navigate this loan.

Date: Tuesday, September 29
Time: 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
CPE: 1 credit
Cost: FREE for MSCPA members | $25 for non-members

To register, click here.

CPA License Renewal and CPE Deadline: September 30

Please note: The deadline for even-year license renewals and CPE requirements is next Wednesday, September 30 and the deadline for firm affidavits is Monday, November 2. 

According to the Board of Public Accountancy, "before renewing online, individual licensees must have completed the required 80 hours of continuing professional education (CPE), including at least four hours in ethics, from July 1, 2018 through September 30, 2020, or the license will expire."

To read the official notice from the Board of Public Accountancy, click here.

To renew your license, click here. To check your CPE credits, visit your CPE Tracker here.

New England Advocacy Coalition September Newsletter
The New England Advocacy Coalition released its September newsletter on happenings specific to each state in the New England region. To read the newsletter, click here.

Guidance for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) DOR & IRS Updates
U.S. Department of Labor Announce Online Portal for Paid Leave Eligibility
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released an online portal through which workers can determine their eligibility for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).To view the Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQs, click here.

Massachusetts Resources

Reopening Massachusetts: We are in Phase 3 of out reopening plan. For more information, click here.

DUA Unemployment Scam: If you believe you may have had a false unemployment claim filed using your identity, contact the DUA here or at 877.626.6800. Please stay vigilant.

Additional information on this will be posted here as it becomes available.Department of Public Health (DPH): Click here to read updates from the DPH regarding COVID-19.

Division of Local Services (DLS): For those who work with cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the DLS has a dedicated webpage that provides finance guidance to city and town officials related to the state of emergency. For more information, click here.For urgently needed guidance, please email the DLS.

Older Coverage

Massachusetts Primary Election Results
U.S. Senate 
There were a few hotly contested races on the September 1 Primary Election Day, but none more than that between incumbent Senator Ed Markey and challenger Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. After a year-long campaign, Senator Markey bested Congressman Kennedy with around 55% of the vote. On the Grand Old Party (GOP) side, Attorney Kevin O’Connor defeated Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai with 59% of the vote. Senator Markey and O’Connor will face each other in the November 3 general election.

Massachusetts First Congressional District 
In a race at the First Congressional District that caught the eye of national media outlets in the last few weeks, Congressman Richie Neal, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, defeated Alex Morse, mayor of the City of Holyoke. While Congressman Neal won with almost 59% of the vote, this was said to be his most challenging primary to date. Many suspect that 31-year-old Mayor Morse will be around elected politics in Western Massachusetts for years to come.

Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District
About 1,000 votes between the top two candidates in a seven-person race in the fourth Congressional District, currently represented by Congressman Kennedy, will decide the Democrat party’s nominee for the November general election. In a race that is still too close to call, Jake Auchincloss, Newton city councilor, and Jesse Mermell, former president of the Alliance for Business Leadership, both hope to be their party’s nominee to face off against the Republican nominee, Air Force veteran, Colonel Julie Hall (Ret.).WBUR has a full list of election results including additional contested congressional and county races. To learn more, click here.

Fiscal Year 2020 Closes $3 Billion Short of 2019 Projections
The over $4 billion in tax collections for the month of July was a welcomed surprise, but the close of the fiscal year fell around $3 billion short of the revenue projections set in 2019. About half of the July collections will help close the $3 billion budget gap and the other half will go towards crafting the FY21 budget. As many sectors of the economy continue to struggle and with the virus promising to stay around for quite some time, Governor Baker and administration officials don’t believe the July returns signify the beginning of a trend. We will learn more about the economic status of Massachusetts once we are able to see the August and September collections, which are less likely to be as positive as July.

Massachusetts to Continue Taxing Telecommuters
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue released a technical information release (TIR) in July stating they will continue to tax telecommuters, including non-residents, to the end of this year. The declaration sparked an outcry from our New Hampshire neighbors, which led to NH governor Chris Sununu directing the NH attorney general to review the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s TIR to ensure that NH residents are not being “improperly taxed.”In an interview with WBUR Radio Boston last week, MSCPA President and CEO Amy Pitter agreed with Massachusetts’ approach as any changes to this process would require employers to “jump through a lot of very complicated hoops and [rework] their payroll systems for something that’s only going to be in place for a number of months.” To listen to Pitter’s interview with WBUR, click here

Massachusetts Legislature Releases $16.5 Billion Interim Budget to Fund State Government through October 
The Massachusetts legislature announced a $16.5 billion interim budget that will fund state government services through October 31. This proposal comes as legislators continue discussions on how to both close the FY20 budget and craft a budget for FY21. Beacon Hill leaders are waiting to see what level of federal relief, if any, comes from Washington, D.C. to assist with the budget gap. 

Legislators are also discussing an extension to its formal legislative session as there are multiple high-profile bills currently being debated. As the formal session concludes tomorrow, we should know more details on the potential extension soon, and we will share that information with you when it’s available. 

MSCPA President and CEO Amy Pitter will take a leading role in these discussions through her involvement with the Senate Revenue Working Group, which has shifted gears to assist in finding quality solutions for the significant economic and financial problems Massachusetts faces. Pitter is convening a group of business leaders in the next week to discuss the difficult path forward and ensure that individual taxpayers and local businesses don’t bear the brunt of tax burdens.
The MSCPA compiled a list of business community tax policy principles to guide these discussions. To read the principles, click here

There are several major initiatives waiting for action before the legislature breaks in August. For a summary of the “nine Issues to watch over the next nine days,” please click here.

Senate GOP Unveils the $1 Trillion HEALS Act
In August, the Senate GOP unveiled its HEALS Act, a $1 trillion piece of legislation that would send payments of up to $1,200 to qualifying individuals, providing funds for school openings, bolstering unemployment assistance and more. The legislation does not provide funding for state and local governments, a main policy point for democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate.In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the $3.2 trillion HEROES Act that would also provide payments of up to $1,200 to individuals, as well as funding for community hospitals, COVID-19 testing, state and local governments and much more. Now that the Senate and the House have produced each of its own federal relief legislation, leaders in each branch of Congress will begin discussions to find a compromise on a final bill. 

We hope that both branches of Congress and the White House find a compromise that would provide much-need relief to state and local governments before drastic measures are taken. 

Read the key differences of both federal relief bills here

The MSCPA led the charge of 28 state societies of CPAs advocating for federal funding for state and local governments. To read our letter to congressional leadership, click here.

Governor Baker Implements Travel Order Effective 8/1
As the number of COVID-19 positive cases begins to increase, Governor Baker issued a travel order to all visitors, including residents returning to Massachusetts, to complete a Massachusetts travel form and requiring them to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test. Travelers returning from lower-risk states as designated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are exempt from completing the form or quarantining. Failure to comply with the COVID-19 travel order are subject to a $500 fine per day.For more information, click here.

Massachusetts DOR: How Does the CARES Act Impact MA State Tax?
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) recently released a blog post outlining the Massachusetts tax implications of the provisions in the CARES Act and how they affect individual and business and corporate tax filers. 

To read the blog post, click here

To read the Technical Information Release on the Massachusetts Tax Implications of the CARES Act, click here.

IRS Lock Box Locations
The IRS recently published a 2020 Lockbox Address Directory for tax practitioners and taxpayers. Please take note that the addresses to mail returns varies by form and whether or not a payment is included with the returns.

Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) Model Rule Change to Support CPA Evolution
The AICPA and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) leadership recently proposed changes to the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) to ensure the CPA credential reflects the rapidly changing landscape of the accounting profession and the necessary skills CPAs need today and will need in the future. The exposure draft issued by NASBA updates the educational requirements that create more flexibility and consistency and would:  Massachusetts Economists: Q2 Will be Worst in Recorded History
The MassBenchmarks Editorial Board, comprised of leading economists and financial experts in Massachusetts, recently suggested that the Q2 of 2020 is likely to be the worst financial quarter in recorded Massachusetts history. Between March 15 and May 30, the Department of Unemployment Assistance received over 1.4 million new claims, representing one-third of the Massachusetts workforce and led to a 15% unemployment rate in April.

Economic recovery will be largely based on public health data, employee comfortability to return to work, financial assistance from the federal government and whether a second wave of the virus hits in the future. MassBenchmarks advises against making cuts to services that would have long-term ramifications, put more people out of work and on unemployment. Solutions provided to bridge the gap include tapping into existing reserves and raising taxes temporarily.

Separately, but on a related note, the Boston Globe Editorial Board this week called for the state to borrow through bonding to avoid budget cuts and increased taxes.

U.S. Congress Passes Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020
In an unanimous vote last night, the U.S Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020. The legislation, which moved through the U.S. House of Representatives last week, creates more flexibility for borrowers and extends the time period for businesses to use the funds from eight weeks to 24 weeks, and changes the ratio from 75/25 to 60/40 for payroll to other fixed costs. Other updates include: The bill now goes to the President's desk for his signature. 

To learn more about the details in the legislation, click here.

Professional Resources

MSCPA Legislative Brief
This newsletter offers information and resources available through the federal and state governments regarding business loan programs, updates from the Departments of Labor and Health, and news as it relates to the impacts of COVID-19 on the accounting profession, the economy and the Society. Check out past issues here.

Coronavirus Resource Center for CPAs
For a full list of Massachusetts relief programs and professional resources, please visit the MSCPA’s Coronavirus Resource Center for CPAs.

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