Wednesday, January 18, 2017


This past Saturday I attended the annual “Famous State Tax Seminar” offered by the NJ chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals, as I have for all but maybe 2 (due to excessive snow) of these offerings for perhaps 25 years now.  It was held, as it has always been, at the now APA Woodbridge Hotel (the hotel formerly known as the Woodbridge Hilton) in Iselin NJ (although the location may change next year due to increased costs).

I have said for years now, this seminar is a true “must attend” for any tax preparer who prepares NJ state individual and business income tax and payroll tax returns.

As has been the custom for many years now the program began, after greetings by chapter President Tom Watkins, with the “keynote” presentation by Dennis Shilling, Deputy Executive Director of the NJ Division of Taxation, representing the Executive director who was unavailable.  While I do agree that the ED should be invited to speak each year, this presentation has not been of any real substantive value since Robert Thompson held the position – and this year was no different.

Years ago the seminar featured a presentation by the then Director of the NJ Division of Revenue, which was very informative and eye-opening.  Perhaps next year’s keynote speaker can be the current NJDFOR head.

Up next was a presentation on “Tips for Preparing the NJ Inheritance Tax Return” by attorney Michael Feinberg.  As always Michael, an excellent, well-informed and highly experienced speaker, did a great job.  But, other than his preliminary comments on recent law changes, the presentation was redundant for annual attendees.  He had given a similar talk last year and another a few years ago.  There is no need to repeat an introduction to NJ inheritance and estate taxes each year – we really only need updates.  Perhaps NJNATP can offer a separate half-day workshop on this topic during the year for members who do these returns.  I do not prepare federal or state estate or inheritance tax returns, nor do I want to, so regardless of how good this presentation was it was a waste of time for me.

Michael did suggest that, in his opinion and that of others, the current abolishment of the NJ Estate Tax in 2018 may be overturned.  The State can’t afford to do without this revenue.  He also pointed out that the 2017 $2 Million filing threshold is not really a $2 Million “exemption”.  The first $2 Million of a, for example, $3 Million estate will not be exempt from the tax.  Estates under $2 Million do not have to file a NJ Estate Tax return.  A 2017 estate worth $3 Million will very likely pay the same state estate tax as a 2016 $3 Million estate would, despite the law change.

After a brief break came the reason most of us attend this seminar each year – the “Jake and Alexis Show” (formerly the Jim and Jake Show – with Alexis DeRosa now replacing Jim Gordon, who retired a few years ago), with an able assist from NJ Tax University (a program of the NJ Division of Taxation) colleague Christina Quinones.  John Kelly, a former NJDOT employee who Schilling suggested has now “gone to the dark side” when he went from addressing the audience as a State representative to being a member of the audience as a fellow tax preparer, also added some nuggets from his years of experience to the presentation from his seat.

One comment I made to a chapter board member: the hair style of Jake - Jacob Foy, head of the NJTU – has drastically changed over the years.  When he first began representing NJDOT at these seminars currently short-haired Jake had a long pony tail.

The Jake and Alexis Show was bisected by an excellent buffet lunch included in the cost of the event.  Before lunch was “New Jersey Tax Updates” and after lunch was “New Jersey Property Tax Relief” and a discussion of “New Jersey Individual Income Tax Audit Procedures” by state auditor Robert Skala – certainly knowledgeable and experienced in the topic but not as good or polished a presenter as the NJTU guys.

There was nothing much new to report for NJ state taxes or property tax relief programs – either for 2016 or subsequent returns.  The speakers covered the few changes.  I will discuss what is new for the 2016 NJ-1040 in a subsequent post.  Here, however, are two items for 2016 filings worth emphasizing from the NJ presentation –

(1) No NJ refunds will be issued until March 1, 2017 – regardless of when the return is submitted.   

(2) All NJ state corporation income tax returns – CBT-100 and CBT-100S – for periods beginning January 1, 2016 and later must be filed electronically, regardless if prepared by an outside tax professional or done in house by the corporation.  The problem is that in order to file electronic state corporate income tax returns one must purchase commercial software – you cannot submit a corporate return directly to NJ free of charge via the NJDOT website, as you can with all sales and payroll tax returns and payments and some NJ-1040s.  Unlike the NJ-1040 filing mandate for tax preparers, there is NO “Opt-Out” option for corporate filers.  So the state is forcing every single truly small corporation with minimal activity to unnecessarily waste money purchasing commercial software.  I am not aware if this new mandate is required by legislation passed by the idiots in Trenton, or if this nonsense is just a regulation adopted by NJDOT.

{As an aside – it appears to me that the State of NJ does not want corporation filers.  First it made the minimum filing fee for a corporation $500.00 per year, and now this.}

The final presentation of the day, again as per usual, was “New York State Updates” from one of the chapter’s favorite speakers Kathryn Keane.  As with NJ, nothing of consequence changed in the filing of resident and non-resident individual income tax returns for 2016.  Kathryn mostly discussed administrative and operational issues with her usual humor.

Obviously, the value to the tax pro of this seminar usually depends on the degree of changes to tax law that affect current and ongoing filings.  There was not much new to discuss at this year’s seminar.  However the chapter did its usual great job and I thank NJ-NATP for presenting this excellent seminar each year.


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