Aug. 11, 2015: FICPA Gears Up for 2016 Elections, Legislative Session

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FICPA Legislative Update
Image: Legislative Update
 FICPA Gears Up for 2016 Elections, Legislative Session

Image: Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMAAs summer winds down, things are heating up in Tallahassee in preparation for the 2016 Legislative Session. Session will begin in January 2016, rather than in May. Lawmakers are at the Capitol this week to redraw the Congressional maps that were rejected by the Florida Supreme Court, and they’ll begin discussing legislation during committee meetings in September. Over 70 bills already have been filed and our team is reviewing them to determine their impact on the profession.

Lawmakers also will return for a third Special Session to revise the state Senate districts.

With the presidential campaigns in full swing and Florida’s districts changing, 2016 likely will be a very active campaign season for Florida. We already are hearing from potential candidates seeking support for election or re-election, and it’s important for us to know if you have contacts who are running. Please help us ensure the right leaders are sent to Tallahassee by becoming a Key Person Contact and supporting the Florida CPA/PAC.

If you’d like more information about what’s happening throughout the state and at the Capitol, please contact me or Justin Thames, our director of governmental affairs.

Our efforts are successful because of your involvement and support. Thank you for all you do to make the profession strong.

Sincerely,

Image: Deborah Curry Signature
Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMA
FICPA President/CEO

In Case You Missed It
Image: Deepwater Horizon Settlement Under Review Image: Floridians Save on Back-to-School Items Image: President Obama Signs Tax Due-dates Bill Into Law
Deepwater Horizon Settlement Under Review

It’s been in the news. Some 400 local governments are busy planning how they’ll spend anticipated settlement dollars resulting from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The oil giant has reached an agreement, in principle, to pay $18.7 billion to settle civil claims with Florida, four other Gulf Coast states, local governments and the federal government.

BP’s claim deadline was June 8. However, CPAs are advised to continue monitoring the process. According to the Financial Times, more than 60,000 business claims filed prior to the deadline are yet to be processed.

The spill settlement terms are not final or binding at this time.

“We will work diligently during the next several months to incorporate the agreement in principle into a consent decree, which would then undergo public comment before court approval,” Lynch said.

In response to the agreement, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to Attorney General Lynch voicing concerns that some $700 million set aside for future harm might not be sufficient to cover unknown, long-term spill impacts. Nelson also urged Lynch to hold at least one public comment meeting in Florida and asked that BP not be allowed tax deductions on settlement payout.

Floridians Save on Back-to-School Items

Through Aug. 16, Florida taxpayers will save during the back-to-school sales tax holiday the Legislature approved during the 2015 Session. This year’s holiday has been extended to 10 days, giving shoppers two weekends to save 7 percent on their purchases. This is the longest opportunity Floridians have had to save on back-to-school items since the first holiday was approved in 1998.

The list of items that qualify for the tax break is extensive and everyone can benefit from the deals retailers are promoting to capitalize on the influx of shoppers during the period. The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) has developed guidelines for consumers who’re heading to their favorite shopping spots.

Items included in the holiday:

  • Clothing, footwear and certain accessories selling for $100 or less per item.
  • Certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item.
  • The first $750 of the sales price of personal computers and certain computer-related accessories, when purchased for non-commercial home or personal use.

For a detailed list of tax-exempt items and more information from DOR, click here

President Obama Signs Tax Due-dates Bill Into Law

Good things often come to those who wait – and to those who work hard on legislation! The tax due-dates bill the AICPA and state societies have worked on during the past few years passed the House and Senate last week as part of the short-term highway funding extension, H.R. 3236, and President Barack Obama signed it into law July 31.

The law sets new due dates for partnership and C corporation returns, as well as FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) and several other IRS information returns. It also overrules the Supreme Court’s Home Concrete decision; requires that additional information be reported on mortgage information statements; and requires consistent basis reporting between estates and beneficiaries.

The act rationalizes some due dates, especially for partnership returns, and generates a small amount of revenue for the federal government, which is why it was included in the highway funding bill.

Read a Journal of Accountancy article that outlines the due dates legislation.

Image: IRS Remains Between a Rock and Hard Place Image: Lobbyist Audits Delayed, But Get Boost from Jeb Image: Lawmakers Head to Tallahassee...Again
IRS Remains Between a Rock and Hard Place

The IRS continues to deal with the fallout after several investigations into whether the agency targeted tax payers for political reasons. The Senate Finance Committee released their report on the scandal after a 27-month investigation, during which it said it reviewed more than 1 million documents.

Panel Chairman Orrin Hatch (R) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D) offered very different opinions of what happened at the agency. Their report doesn’t differ much from a previous report conducted by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In both reports, Republicans claimed the agency acted with political bias toward taxpayers, and Democrats maintained internal deficiencies were the result.

The IRS already has issued a response to the most recent report saying, “The IRS is fully committed to making further improvements, and we want to do everything we can to help taxpayers have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the tax system. We have already taken many steps to make improvements in our processes and procedures, and we are pleased to have other suggestions from the committee to help us in our continuing effort.”

Making the appropriate improvements may be difficult for the IRS to do with planned cuts by the Senate appropriations committees recommending a 4 percent cut from last year, and 20 percent less than what the administration requested in its annual budget.

In July, the FICPA sent a letter to Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, urging them to support efforts to have the IRS focus resources on improving taxpayer customer service.

Read the FICPA letter to Sens. Nelson/Rubio.

Lobbyist Audits Delayed, But Get Boost from Jeb

For the first time in 10 years, the Legislature imposed part of a 2005 law meant to shed light on lobbying activities in the Capitol. In February, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee began selecting lobbying firms, through a random lottery process, to have their financial records audited. Twenty-six firms were selected and the audits were to be concluded by June. Now, because of an extension requested by one of the biggest auditees – Rutledge Ecenia – the deadline will be extended until the end of August. Once all the reports have been completed, copies will be given to legislative leaders for review.

The 2005 law, known as the “lobbyist gift ban,” instituted bans on all gifts from lobbyists and the companies employing them. It also required lobbying firms to keep more extensive records, and to file more items at registration and on quarterly expenditure and compensation reports. Those records then would be subject to random audits by the state’s auditor general.

Until 2014 it wasn’t clear that the little-known piece of the law even would be implemented. At that time, Senate President Don Gaetz made it clear he intended to move forward with the random audit provision.

Gaetz said, “Are people going to be upset because their performance is audited? Probably so. Are there going to be shooting matches between firms? Probably so. Do I care? Not so much.”

During his recent presidential campaign stop in Tallahassee, former Gov. Jeb Bush referenced the increased scrutiny of the Florida lobbying profession by declaring the need for a similar measure to be adopted in Washington.

The ban has received criticism from many legislators and has been pointed out as somewhat ineffective in accomplishing its original intent. But now that Bush has made it part of his campaign message, it looks like the process will continue to move forward and wind up on the national stage.

Lawmakers Head to Tallahassee...Again

Florida legislators will travel to Tallahassee again next week, after just having left two months ago, for the first of two Special Sessions that will take place in the upcoming months. The sessions are the result of the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that eight congressional districts constructed by the Legislature during the redistricting process were drawn with the intent to favor Republican Party incumbent lawmakers.

Here’s a list of districts the Legislature must redraw, and the members of Congress who currently represent those districts:

District 5 – Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville)
District 13 – Congressman David Jolly (R-St. Petersburg)
District 14 – Congresswoman Kathy Castor, (D-Tampa)
District 21 – Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Coral Springs)
District 22 – Congresswoman Lois Frankel, (D-Boca Raton)
District 25 – Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami)
District 26 – Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami)
District 27 – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami)

Undoubtedly, the changes made to these eight will affect other districts. Already, several incumbent state legislators and former legislators have indicated their desire to run for Congress if the changes create an opportunity for them to do so. Once the Congressional maps are redrawn, the Legislature has a third Special Session scheduled to redraw the state Senate district maps.

With all of these changes taking place and a Presidential campaign heating up, the voter’s ballot for Florida’s 2016 elections may contain a lot of unfamiliar names. FICPA Governmental Affairs staff will stay on top of all Special Sessions and provide updates in IMPACT Report.


PAC Assessing 2016 Candidates

Image: Stronger Together: Your Florida CPA/PAC The year is halfway over and the 2016 elections are right around the corner. Candidates are kicking off their campaigns and the Florida CPA/PAC is evaluating them to ensure that they are supportive of the profession. Your contribution can make a difference and help ensure we have the best people representing the state.

Please support the PAC when you renew your membership or contribute to the PAC here.

Contributions are strictly voluntary and are not deductible for federal tax purposes. The Florida CPA/PAC is an entity completely separate from the FICPA. The Florida CPA/PAC is supported solely by the voluntary contributions of members of the FICPA and others.



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