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View from Revenue: Managing change


Cynthia Bauerly, Minnesota Department of Revenue commissioner | September 2019 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated August 29, 2019

Greetings! With this year’s income tax filing season past, I want to thank you — on behalf of everyone at the Department of Revenue — for your hard work to help Minnesotans file their tax returns.

Our vision at Revenue is, “Everyone reports, pays, and receives the right amount: no more, no less.” You play a key role in making that happen.

Our partnership with the MNCPA is essential to provide information and resources Minnesotans need to meet their state tax obligations.

Thank you for the opportunity to present information about 2019 tax law changes at the SALT Conference and Management & Business Advisers Conference in June. Your feedback and questions were extremely helpful as we began the process of updating systems for the new law.

You can always get the latest information by:
  • Visiting our Tax Law Changes webpage at www.revenue.state.mn.us/tax-law-changes. There you will find our plan to update our filing systems, answers to frequently asked questions and legislative bulletins, which describe the changes.
  • Subscribing to our Tax Law Changes email updates. To begin, enter your email into the signup box on the homepage and select which bulletins you want to receive.

Navigating change

In this year’s legislative session, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan emphasized tax relief to working families, seniors and farmers, and a federal update that maintains Minnesota’s tax laws for individuals and provides conformity for businesses. Legislators considered the governor’s plan along with other proposals, large and small.

The tax bill became law on May 30 (Minnesota Laws 2019, 1st Special Session, Chapter 6). The compromise measure includes proposals from the governor, House and Senate. Minnesota now conforms to most — but not all — federal tax provisions, including major federal law changes made in 2017.

The department has well-established procedures to implement the changes, and to inform tax professionals and others who need to know about them. Since May, we have been reviewing the tax law and its impact on our customers, providing guidance and updating filing systems.

In June, we began developing and updating Minnesota tax forms to reflect any new laws. About 50 people work together to update our tax forms, instructions and processing systems. This team includes tax experts and researchers, attorneys, forms designers and other communications, policy and technology specialists.

Updating forms, systems and customers

The 2019 tax law affects tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019. We’re in the process of updating 2019 forms, our website, and training and materials for tax professionals. (For information about 2017 and 2018 returns, see the sidebar.)

We go through this process each year there are tax law changes. In August, we:
  • Offer conference calls to discuss the law changes with you.
  • Publish near-final forms so we can get feedback and learn about any questions you have for the coming filing season.
  • Start programming the changes into our tax systems.
  • Map how we’ll accept, process, and verify returns — both paper and electronic.
  • Set parameters for fraud detection and to help identify filing errors.
By fall, the Income Tax and Withholding Division will present a webinar focusing on the 2020 filing season. It will include a walkthrough of new and changed forms for tax year 2019. You can find details on our Tax Professionals page under Resources (www.revenue.state.mn.us/tax-professionals).

We plan to publish final forms by mid-October for tax software vendors to finalize and test their products before the next filing season. We repeatedly test all our systems to make sure they work — with each other, the IRS systems and more than 50 tax software products. These products must be secure and compatible with our systems.

Minnesota starts accepting returns on the same day as the IRS, usually mid- to late January. Each year, we receive and process about 2.9 million income tax returns, and more than 800,000 property tax refunds.

Working together

Throughout the year, we work to help businesses, tax professionals and other partners understand current and new tax laws. For example, we:
  • Provide regular updates in email bulletins, conference calls and on our website (see the sidebar).
  • Offer training sessions for businesses, tax professionals and other partners — such as the Employment Tax Seminars and other business education classes.
  • Present at professional conferences, such as the MNCPA’s Tax Conference on Nov. 18–19.
  • Issue Revenue Notices to clarify new and existing tax laws.
Revenue is fortunate to have employees who care deeply about serving the department’s customers while fulfilling our mission: Working together to fund Minnesota’s future.

I feel the same way about the MNCPA and our other partners. We depend on your dedication and the work you do on behalf of your clients.

Enjoy the transition to autumn; thank you for your partnership!

Cynthia Bauerly is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Prior tax years

Some provisions of this year’s tax law may affect 2017 and 2018 returns. We ask that you do not amend these returns unless it is for another reason (unrelated to the law changes). We will adjust these returns or, if needed, reach out for more information.

For those who have not yet filed, the department is modifying our tax systems for tax years 2017 and 2018 to remove or adjust lines for the new tax law. We expect software providers to have revised software available imminently (as of publication).

As we update our tax systems, you can find answers to frequently asked questions on our Tax Law Changes FAQ page at www.revenue.state.mn.us/tax-law-change-faqs.

Website updates

Visit our redesigned website at www.revenue.state.mn.us for the latest on this year’s law changes and other tax information and tools.

Please take a few minutes to explore our new site, which has improved navigation and can be easily viewed on any mobile device. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our email updates and look around the improved Tax Professionals area.

Thank you to everyone who helped by providing your feedback on our beta (preview) of our new website or by coming in for a usability test.