Need help with taxes? Maryland’s comptroller says to call him

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot calls 2020 “a highly unusual tax year — the most unusual one in the history of the state.”

That’s one reason Franchot said he is giving out his cellphone number, so that those Marylanders still struggling to get their taxes done by Wednesday, July 15 can get help if they need it.

“If someone needs something, they can text me or leave a voice mail, and I will do my best to get someone from my staff to help them,” Franchot said.

He said he is doing that in part because the coronavirus outbreak meant hours at the comptroller’s satellite offices were limited — some branches were closed — and because, “That thin little thread that connects people to government is pretty frayed right now.”

“The whole situation is so unusual and so volatile and so confusing to so many people,” Franchot said, referring to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval that has followed.

Franchot was asked if he was serious about publishing his number, and he said yes. So that number is 301-332-1961.

He said people shouldn’t expect to hear him pick up the phone and say, “Hello, this is Peter,” but they should feel confident that their requests for help will be forwarded to staff who will try to help.

Since federal officials and Maryland pushed back the filing deadline from April 15 to July 15, there were a number of questions. One of those questions: If taxpayers owe money but still don’t have the cash to pay their tax bill, should they skip filing for now? Absolutely not, Franchot said.

“They’ve got to send us something,” he said. Filing on time allows taxpayers to avoid penalties.

The same is true for filing federal taxes. To avoid penalties, file your taxes by the July 15 deadline, and payment plans can be worked out.

In Maryland, Franchot said if you file on time but can’t pay, “We’re not going to add interest, we’re not going to add penalties, we’re not going to harass them, we’re not going to make them feel bad.”

Franchot said about 80% of taxpayers have filed their returns for 2019, and the remaining 20% are in the category of owing money.

The delayed filing deadline has a big impact on the state budget — and the services that Maryland can deliver — because those taxpayer dollars fund state government functions.

Recently, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted to cut $413 million, a response to economic pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Franchot, who sits on the board along with Gov. Larry Hogan and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, pushed to hold off on an additional $205 million.

“We should not be affecting the safety net for Marylanders who have no protection,” said Franchot, who along with Kopp voted to delay proposed cuts to cost of living increases for state workers and reductions to teacher pensions.

Franchot said there will be tough decisions ahead, but they should come after the state has the ability to analyze the revenue picture.

He said once state taxes are filed, it will take a few weeks, but that an analysis could come in August.

For more information on taxes, visit these websites:

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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