On Thursday, Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation that would give the state Office of the Comptroller more power to go after fraudulent taxpayers and identity thieves.
Comptroller Peter Franchot has made it his priority to enforce the Maryland’s Tax Code and protect Maryland taxpayers. The Taxpayer Protection Act was passed with only a few hours left of this year’s General Assembly session.
Hogan signed over 200 bills into law in two separate ceremonies, one at the State House and the other at the Annapolis City Dock.
The Waterfront signing was utilized to highlight environmental bills totaling more than a dozen. Three of the bills were the governor’s own initiatives that were passed during the legislative session, before it ended in April.
Legislation supported by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller requiring a majority of businesses to permit their employees to earn paid sick leave was not on Hogan’s signing list.
Hogan opposed the measure, which was heavily supported by democrats, while advancing his own alternative that was eventually ignored by legislators. The governor will need to decide whether to veto or sign the bill by mid-May. Alternatively, the legislation could enter into law with inaction from the governor.
Under the Taxpayer Protect Act, the Comptroller investigators the same police power to enforce income tax fraud cases. The agency currently has several cases involving motor fuel and tobacco. In the past, the comptroller was required to go through the attorney general’s office to take legal action against unscrupulous tax preparers and income tax cheats.
The new power to seek search warrants and arrest will not be utilized to go after individual taxpayers, who alter their tax returns to evade paying the IRS. The power will be directed at tax preparers of fraudulent tax forms and people who illegally file several returns, both of which have become an epidemic in recent years.
The environmental bill that topped the signing list was a measure that broadened and extended an existing state program that gives tax credits to people, who invest in qualified electric cars, along with businesses that install a charging station on their premises. Previously, the tax credit per year was $600,000, but under new bill the tax credit will be increased to $3 million, while reducing the benefit provided to each individual tax filer. Rebates for charging stations are also doubled under the bill.