Monday, January 12, 2015
THE ANNUAL NJ-NATP FAMOUS STATE TAX SEMINAR
As I do each year at this time, this past Saturday I attended the annual “Famous State Tax Seminar” offered each year by the NJ chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals in Iselin NJ.
I have always said that this is a “must-attend” seminar for tax pros who prepare NJ state tax returns. At most I have missed maybe two of the probably 25 seminars that have been presented over the years – and one definitely because of snow.
No snow this year – just cold. For the first time I can recall the seminar was completely sold out before registration opened on Saturday morning, and tax pros who expected to just arrive and pay at the door were turned away!
The schedule began, as usual, after introductions by chapter officers and trustees, with “keynote speaker” Michael Bryan, Director of the NJ Division of Taxation. While it is good to have the current Director speak – he, or the she before him, really have had nothing of value to say. Anything he, or she, did say was covered in more detail by the subsequent speakers from the Division’s Tax Training and Outreach office.
The last time a NJDOT Director had anything of value to say at this seminar was back when Robert Thompson held the title. And one year we were addressed instead by the head of the Department of Revenue, who provided a substantive presentation.
As I have said in the past, perhaps NJ-NATP members can email the event leaders in advance with specific questions on systemic problems – such as the fact that NJDOT, unlike the IRS, remains unethically silent upon receipt of taxpayer overpayments – that would be posed to the Director for comment instead of the normal brief and simplified listing of current activities of the Division.
I will say that I was pleased to hear Mr. Bryan state that he opposed any kind of state registration and testing of paid tax preparers, like the program now finally unfolding in New York. And interested to hear that the “fill-in” NJ-1040 available on the NJDOT website would now be able to be electronically submitted upon completion, if I heard him right. I would have wanted to hear more on this from the subsequent NJDOT speakers.
Michael was followed by estate attorney Bruce E Mantell, a new speaker for NJ-NATP, who talked about estate and inheritance tax issues.
While Bruce was an excellent, and knowledgeable, speaker, and had interesting things to say, we had an almost identical presentation at this seminar last year from a different estate attorney.
I see the purpose of the “Famous State Tax Seminar” is to provide updates on and discuss changes to New Jersey, New York, and perhaps also Pennsylvania individual and corporate income, payroll, sales, and estate and inheritance taxes. The type of presentation made by Bruce, the other attorney last year, and a subsequent NJDOT speaker (discussed later) should be expanded and done as a separate half-day or full-day seminar during the year on how to prepare NJ state estate and inheritance tax returns, with perhaps federal estate tax issues used to make it a full-day offering.
The bulk of the day’s schedule should be devoted to the type of presentation that followed Bruce - Alexis DeRosa of the NJ Division of Taxation talking about NJ updates, and, at the end of the day, Kathryn Keane on NY state topics.
I had hoped that the NJ presentation would be made by Jake Foy, of the famous Jim and Jake Show from past Famous State Tax Seminars, as I had learned that he moved back to the outreach program from the Taxpayer’s Advocate office – but it appears that Jake is not the head of Tax Training and Outreach, and he did make a surprise guest appearance later in the day to announce lunch.
Alexis has spoken at a few NJ offerings in the past, and is a good and knowledgeable presenter - an excellent successor to Jake and former partner Jim Gordon. There is nothing of consequence new on the NJ-1040 for 2014, but there were some administrative issues to discuss as well as the status of the Homestead Benefit and the Property Tax Reimbursement.
Alexis talked about updates to the NJDOT computer systems that would soon allow tax preparers access to lots of taxpayer client information online.
She reminded us that there were no Homestead Benefit applications mailed out in 2014, and no credits against property tax installments were issued in 2014. The credits that would normally have been applied in 2014 have been postponed until 2015. I was well aware that no credits were applied, but had actually not known that the Homestead Benefit applications had not been sent out – however in thinking back I realized that none of my clients had contacted me to submit the application for them online in 2014, as they had done in past years.
And she announced that the income limit for 2014 for the Property Tax Reimbursement had increased to $85,883 – but there was no reason not to think that the state legislature will once again reduce this to $70,000 when it comes time to balance the budget at the end of June. I think I will do a separate post on the NJ property tax relief programs later in January.
After a buffet lunch we returned to the subject of NJ state tax updates with the return of John Kelly, also from NJDOT, who has often been the “comic relief” on the schedule in past years. Nothing has changed. John talked a bit about some new legislation and partnership and corporate issues.
Following John was another presentation on NJ estate and inheritance taxes, this time from another NJDOT representative. This presentation dealt more with the actual mechanics of filling out the state forms. Since I do not prepare federal or state estate or inheritance tax returns I basically daydreamed through the session, as I often do during the redundant ethics preaching that is thankfully missing from the Famous State Tax Seminar.
The day ended with always informative and entertaining Kathryn Keane’s NY state update. As with NJ, there was nothing or consequence new with the NY state individual income tax returns, other than the addition of new Form IT-225 to separately identify “additions” and “subtractions” to NY source income, but there were some administrative changes and changes to the NY state estate taxes.
Another great “Famous” seminar – and kudos to the chapter. However for future reference – enough already with estate and inheritance taxes.
I expect next year the chapter will need to find a bigger venue.