Monday, January 13, 2014
THE ANNUAL NJ-NATP FAMOUS STATE TAX SEMINAR
This past Saturday I attended the NJ chapter of NATP’s annual “Famous State Tax Seminar” at the Woodbridge Hilton in Iselin. I try to get to this seminar every year, and have only missed a handful in it’s, I expect, 20+ year history.
The day’s schedule is limited to state tax updates – New Jersey, New York, and sometimes Pennsylvania. As I was sitting there on Saturday it occurred to me that one of the reasons it is so consistently good is that we are not forced to sit through yet another 2 hours of redundant and unnecessary Ethics preaching.
As has been a custom, the first presentation of the morning was the “keynote” address by the Director of the NJ Division of Taxation. The current Director is Michael Bryan. This year’s all-too-brief “keynote” presentation was a total waste of time.
While I do like the fact that the Director is on the agenda, I wish he would say something of value and not just quote uninteresting economic statistics and merely touch on some items that are presented more thoroughly and effectively later in the day by one of his DOT employees. I want him to address real issues, or take serious questions from the floor on systemic and other problems we tax pros face in dealing with the often incompetent DOT.
The only NJDOT Director that has ever given a presentation of value has been Bobby Thompson years ago (I believe he left office under a cloud concerning, again I believe, having received too many “gifts” from DOT vendors). The head of the Division of Revenue also gave a good and insightful presentation several years ago, but has never returned.
Here’s a thought - a “Q+A” instead of a formal presentation. Expand the Director’s allotted time. Give those who sign up for the seminar the opportunity to email the Education Committee a question they would like the Director to answer or an issue they would like him to address. The Committee would review the submissions and select what to put to the Director. Members of the audience would be allowed to comment or ask for clarification on the Director’s responses.
The rest of the morning was taken up by an excellent presentation on the NJ Estate and Inheritance Tax by the best actual “presenter” of the day – attorney Michael Feinberg, who has appeared on the “bill” before (his presentation style is perfect, and he was certainly intimately knowledgeable on his topic; while I do not, and do not want to, prepare estate or inheritance returns, I found the talk interesting as a potential beneficiary and Executor, and close friend of potential beneficiaries and Executors), and a workmanlike presentation on NJ Sales and Use Tax issues and updates by another attorney (and returning speaker), Susan Feeney, who was also very knowledgeable on her topic.
After a buffet lunch, this time in a private room (it is usually in one of the hotel’s restaurants), we returned for the real meat of the day – New Jersey and New York state tax updates.
Alexis DeRosa from the NJDOT is a fine successor to the wonderful “Jim and Jake Show” NJ updates of the past, which were always the highlight of the day. And witty EA Katherine Keane has become a fixture of the event providing New York State income tax updates.
As a point of information, Michael Feinberg was the only speaker who definitively addressed the issue of same-sex marriage and NJ taxes.
Here are some of the items of interest from the day’s presentations –
* The NJDOT will begin to actively enforce the tax preparer e-file mandate in the future. Since I do not use flawed and expensive tax preparation software, and never will, I cannot e-file NJ returns the traditional way. I use NJWebFile whenever I can, and the client permits, but it has too many restrictions, and I am forced to file a paper return.
* To be able to take advantage of the “portability” of the federal estate tax exemption available to married couples the estate of the first spouse MUST file a federal estate tax return (Form 706) regardless of the amount of the gross or taxable estate. There is no “portability” for the NJ estate tax.
* There is NEVER an income tax consequence for the recipient of a gift.
* The however legitimate attempts by NJDOT to verify NJ Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility often make the NJ-EITC more of a PITA for tax preparers than the federal due diligence requirements. All the more reason why the EITC does not belong on any tax return.
Once again kudos to NJ-NATP for a great seminar.