State Grant Application Period Now Open For Popular Recreation Program

From State Sen. John Gordner

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) will begin accepting applications for the latest round of grants for community conservation and recreational projects on January 22, 2018, according to state Senator John R. Gordner.

“This is a special year, as it marks the 25th anniversary of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund,” said Senator Gordner. “Over that time, over 3,000 community park projects and over 12,000 miles in trail projects have been completed or maintained because of this essential program.”

In 2018, DCNR will again focus on grant awards that meet the priorities laid out in the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

“As usual, the priorities for the program this year include rehabilitation of trails and community parks, land conservation projects and improved access to Pennsylvania waterways,” said Senator Gordner.

The application period will remain open until April 11, 2018. Grants will be funded through a variety of sources, including the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, the Pennsylvania Recreational Trails Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation staff is available to assist in helping applicants develop and submit a competitive grant application.  Detailed program information, access to the online grant application portal and more can be found here

Information on the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan may be found here. Grant applications are available here.

PA Chamber Voices Support for Package of Regulatory Reform Bills at Press Conference

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Pennsylvania’s business community has long protested against an onslaught of regulations from bureaucrats at all levels of government that make it harder to start and complete projects and grow the economy. Last week, PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Kevin Sunday spoke at a press conference in support of a package of bills that aims to reduce regulatory burdens at the state level.

According to state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who organized the press conference, the bills were introduced in light of the “Regulatory Overreach Report,” which was compiled following a series of public hearings where employers, organizations and experts on regulatory policy all reiterated the negative impact that overzealous regulation has had on private sector growth and job creation. The package of bills would accomplish several reforms in terms of cutting through regulatory red tape, not the least of which would be ensuring that the General Assembly – not agency bureaucrats – have more authority to set regulatory policy. In addition, the bills would establish the Independent Office of the Repealer to review existing regulations; process and deliver recommendations to elected officials; require that lawmakers must approve any economically significant regulation (one with an impact of $1 million or more) for it to go into effect; and improve wait times for what is now a lengthy permit approval process.

At the press conference, Sunday stressed that regulatory policies carry the full weight of the law and should not be set by agencies with no stake in their outcome. He also applauded lawmakers for working to re-establish the legislative branch as the primary branch of government for policy making. In a statement issued the same day as the press conference, Sunday also urged Congress to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act and reduce regulatory burdens at the federal level.

“As federal mandates continue to place a major strain on both business and state and local governments, we also applaud Congress for its continued consideration of the Regulatory Accountability Act … to obligate agencies to take the most cost-effective regulatory path to achieve the state policy goals of the legislative branch and to bring more accountability and transparency to the rulemaking process,” Sunday stated.

The bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act has already passed the U.S. House and has been reported out of a Senate committee; the PA Chamber is encouraging Senators Toomey and Casey to vote for this important legislation.

Here We Go Again: IRS Extends Information Reporting Deadline

From ChamberChoice

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) must report its offer of affordable coverage to its full-time employees. This reporting is achieved by providing a Form 1095-C to full-time employees (and any covered individual under a self-insured plan). In order for an individual to demonstrate having minimum essential coverage (MEC) and avoid a tax penalty under the individual mandate, insurers and small employers with self-insured health coverage, must provide a Form 1095-B to any covered responsible individual.

In 2015 and 2016 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the deadline for issuing certain required reporting forms. Recently, the IRS issued Notice 2018-06 which again provides a similar extension regarding the reporting of health coverage provided during the 2017 calendar year. Just as before, this Notice provides an automatic 30-day extension to the deadline for issuing Forms 1095-C and 1095-B from Jan. 31, 2018 to March 2, 2018.

Since the IRS is providing this extension to all employers, no additional extensions can be requested or submitted using Form 8809. Any extensions that were already requested by an employer will not receive an additional extension.

However, a word of caution, the filing which is due to the IRS has not been extended. The due date for filing Form 1094-C to the IRS, with copies of Form 1095-Cs provided, remains at Feb. 28, 2018 if not filing electronically (less than 250 Forms). If filing 250 or more Forms, and electronically, the deadline is April 2, 2018. The ability to request a 30-day extension for this remains an option.

As in the previous extensions, this notice also provides certain “good-faith compliance” with the reporting rules. Substantial penalties may be avoided where an employer or an insurer can show that they have made good-faith efforts to comply with the information-reporting requirements (both for furnishing to individuals and for filing with the IRS). Another note of caution however, this relief only applies to missing and inaccurate taxpayer identification numbers and dates of birth, as well as other information required on the return or statement. Relief is not provided in the case of reporting entities that do not make a good-faith effort to comply with the regulations or that fail to file an information return or furnish a statement by the due dates (as extended under the rules described above).

An employer needs to be aware of the importance of the receipt of these documents by their employees. The extension of the reporting deadlines should not be interpreted as a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate. The individual mandate, and the penalty for not having “minimum essential coverage” remains in effect for 2017 and 2018. The Notice confirms that employees need not wait to receive either a Form 1095-C or 1095-B before filing their tax returns. Instead, an employee may rely on information provided by their employer.

In summary, the IRS again has provided an extension for the distribution of Forms 1095-C and 1095-B to full-time employees and covered individuals. An extension has been granted from Jan. 31, 2108 until March 2, 2018. This extension however, is not applicable for Forms 1094-C and 1094-B which must be filed with the IRS. In addition to extending the distribution deadline, the IRS continued the interim good faith compliance standard that was in effect for the 2015 and 2016 years of ACA reporting.

PA Department of Revenue Reverses Pro-Business Policy on Capital Investments

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Late last month, the state Department of Revenue quietly made a significant change to employers’ tax filings regarding capital investments. This action is in response to the 100 percent bonus appreciation deduction that will be allowed under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The decision reverses a Corbett-era policy that allowed for this deduction at the state level. It requires taxpayers who take advantage of capital investments – primarily for the purchase of new equipment to expand or improve production at their facilities – to reflect those purchases when filing their income taxes.

The history of the agency’s changes regarding depreciation dates back to 2002, when in the wake of a Congressionally-approved “bonus” depreciation of 30 percent, the General Assembly enacted legislation to allow the same level of depreciation, but spread it out over multiple years to deflect a hit to the state General Fund. With that move to decouple the state’s depreciation policy from the federal policy, the legislature was clear about its intent – it would help businesses take advantage of the change. Fast forward to 2011, when the Corbett administration’s Revenue Department allowed state policy to mirror federal approval of a 100 percent bonus deprecation.  The new policy strips all that away and then some: it allows no depreciation until the asset is disposed of or sold.

State Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, has since announced his plans to introduce legislation that would reverse the Revenue Department’s action in order to help business owners take full advantage of the bonus depreciation benefits enumerated under the new federal tax reform law. In a co-sponsorship memo that was circulated early last week, Rep. Ryan decried the department’s actions. “Under [Revenue Corporate Tax Bulletin] 2017-2, in the best case scenario, a taxpayer gets no deduction until the asset is sold or disposed of. If the taxpayer has equipment that may be used indefinitely, it could effectively get no depreciation write-off in Pennsylvania. This draconian pronouncement essentially tells business owners ‘thanks, but no thanks, Pennsylvania is closed for business,” Ryan wrote. The legislation to reverse these provisions will be introduced in the near future.

Governor Wolf Declares Heroin and Opioid Epidemic a Statewide Disaster Emergency

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Governor Tom Wolf  signed a statewide disaster declaration related to the heroin and opioid epidemic to enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives. The declaration will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies.

Among the declaration’s specifics are 13 key initiatives that are the culmination of a collaboration between all state agencies, with focus on the departments of Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Details are available here.

In October, President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Substance abuse is a significant issue for local employers in hiring and retaining employees. To help deal with the crisis locally, the Chamber is a part of the Columbia-Montour Opioid Coalition, organized by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County. The Coalition meets monthly to share information and find solutions in the areas of prevention, treatment, and enforcement.