Tuesday, January 14, 2020
THE NJ-NATP ANNUAL “FAMOUS” STATE TAX SEMINAR
Every year at this time you will find me where I have been, with 1 or 2 exceptions for snow, for almost 30 years now – attending the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Tax Professionals annual “Famous State Tax Seminar”, at the APA Hotel Woodbridge (formerly the Woodbridge Hilton) in Iselin NJ for probably 20 years now. It truly is “famous”. As I say each year, it is a “must-attend” for anyone who prepares New Jersey taxes for individuals and businesses.
As has been the custom each year, the first presentation of the day, after preliminary remarks by the NJ-NATP President and Seminar Chair, is the “keynote” speaker, which is normally the current Director, or Acting Director, of the NJ Division of Taxation. Unfortunately, while I do believe the NJDOT Director should be invited to speak each year, and his attendance shows his and the Division’s support of, and highlights the importance to the Division of, NJ-NATP and NJ tax professionals in general, the actual presentation usually provides the least amount of actual “continuing professional education”.
This year (still) Acting Director John Ficara returned. And his presentation was, like last year’s, “redundant, touching briefly on topics that were discussed in more detail by the other NJDOT representatives in subsequent presentations.”
And, as I first observed a few years ago, “ . . . there was really nothing of consequence to ‘take away’. There was no time for audience questions or comments, and he did not address real systemic issues with the Division.”
I once again repeat my suggestion first made a couple of years ago – “Perhaps for the future seminars registrants could be asked to submit to the chapter in advance written systemic questions and concerns for the seminar chair to present to the Director instead of the nice but mostly useless keynote address.”
Before I continue, as a point of information, at this point in my career my interest is pretty much limited to individual income tax issues – involving the NJ-1040 and New York’s IT-201 and IT-203 – and only issues that would affect my current clients, although I still have a basic interest in major NJ corporate tax changes and the NJ property tax relief programs. And, since I no longer accept new clients and am actually winding down toward retirement, as I have said often here and elsewhere, while I do believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, there are some new tricks this old dog doesn’t want to learn, and I say to any existing client to whom these “new tricks” might apply “Homey don’t play that”.
The reason we come to this seminar each year is to learn what is new with NJ state taxes – individual and corporate income, payroll, sales, estate and inheritance, and property. And the “main event”, so to speak, is always what began in the mid-2000s as the “Jake and Jim Show” (long-time readers of TWTP and long-time attendees of this seminar will know what I mean) and has now become the “Alexis and Abra Show”. I am talking about the presentations of what is now known as the NJ Division of Taxation’s “Taxation University”.
The TU program started off with sales tax. As there was apparently nothing new in this area to report the NJDOT representatives walked us through the process and procedures of a sales tax audit. Not a topic I was interested in.
The individual and property tax relief issues were covered by the Alexis of “Alexis and Abra”, who has been speaking at this seminar for years now and has been extremely helpful to me and other NJNATP taxpros in dealing with NJ tax issues during the year. Her presentation identified the changes I have previously blogged about here in my post “WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019 NEW JERSEY STATE TAX FORMS” from last Tuesday.
One item Alexis discussed involved the new sales tax and occupancy tax rules for transient vacation rentals that took effect with 2018. Effective 8/9/2019, only properties rented via agencies like Air BnB and VRBO, travel agencies like Expedia, or that are “professionally managed” are subject to these taxes. Individual property owners who personally rent out vacation homes do not have to register with NJ and be concerned with sales or occupancy tax. And if an individual rents a property via Air BnB, VRBO or another such agency it is the agency that is responsible for registering with the state and collecting and remitting the tax.
Alexis also reported that beginning with 2020, all NJ W-3s, W-2s, W-2Gs, and 1099s - 2020 forms that will be filed in January of 2021 - need to be filed electronically –. It is anticipated that these forms will be able to be filed directly via a free online option.
There were no changes to either the NJ Homestead Benefit or NJ Property Tax Reimbursement programs, other than increasing the PTR income eligibility limit to $91,505 for 2019. The filing deadline for the 2019 PTR-1 or PTR-2 form is November 2, 2020. Alexis reminded us that the 2018 PTR was the first time in over a decade the NJ legislature did not reduce the income limit for receiving a check to $70,000 in order to balance the budget. All qualified applicants whose PTR gross income was less than $89,014 received a reimbursement check in 2019. Let us hope the 2019 threshold will remain intact when the budget is passed this June.
There were also no changes to the NJ inheritance tax for 2019 or going forward, but TU did provide present a primer on the rules and policies for this tax - another topic I was not interested in.
As an aside, it is my belief that this day-long seminar should be limited to discussions of changes that affect the current tax filing season and really should not include purely educational presentations.
Abra of “Alexis and Abra” discussed NJ corporate taxes. Here the major change involved “Unitary Combined Reporting” for corporations with direct or indirect common ownership. I learned, thankfully, that this will not affect any of my very few remaining corporate return clients (an example of a “new trick” I don’t have to learn). This blog if about individual income taxes anyway, so I won’t go into this topic here.
The last TU speaker covered “Identity Theft and Fraud Protection” items. While not really an update, because of the increase in such theft and fraud it is a topic that needed to be addressed.
As has been the custom the last several years, the seminar ended with long-time NATP instructor and friend of NJ-NATP Kathryn Keane’s presentation of NY state tax updates and “Late Breaking Federal Updates”. There was really nothing new for NY (I will address any changes to the NY state income tax forms in a post here when the 2019 forms are made available online) , so the “meat” of her discussion involved the last-minute extension of the infamous “tax extenders” by the idiots in Congress and the changes to retirement savings from the SECURE Act.
As always, NJ-NATP, the Taxation University, and KK did a great job. Seminar Chairs Josh Melum and Alyce Taylor and new chapter President Teresa Marron deserve kudos.