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Hands-on collaboration still key in a virtual year

Cynthia Bauerly, Minnesota Department of Revenue commissioner | September 2020 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated August 31, 2020

The past several months have tested Minnesota families, workers and businesses in many ways as our state faces a range of medical, social and economic issues.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue’s mission — “Working together to fund Minnesota’s future” — has never felt more important than it does now. And, as I’ve noted before, the Revenue team cannot accomplish that mission without the MNCPA and our other partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires all of us to help provide Minnesotans the services they need in a safe and timely manner. The same challenge applies in other ways to the peaceful protests calling for social change — and in some areas, disruption and destruction — that followed the May death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

You, along with our Revenue team, have met these challenges through hard work and commitment to help taxpayers navigate this year’s unique tax issues. Thank you!

Staying flexible

The pandemic temporarily closed many businesses in Minnesota and across the nation, affecting owners, workers and customers. In response, the department:
  • Allowed Minnesotans more time, until July 15, to file and pay their 2019 individual income tax without penalty, matching the IRS timeline.
  • Provided grace periods for Sales and Use Tax, MinnesotaCare taxes and Gambling Tax, which were originally due in March, April or May.
Individual and business taxpayers who filed and paid these taxes during the grace periods will not be charged penalty and interest.

Taxpayers who could not file and pay before the grace period ended will receive a penalty notice. But they may ask us to abate penalties, additional tax charges and interest for late filing or payment if they have a reasonable cause or are negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, visit the COVID-19 information page on our website (www.revenue.state.mn.us/our-response-covid-19) or type penalty abatement into the Search box on our home page.

Reaching out

At the department (and across Minnesota), the pandemic brought social distancing, masking and health checks into our daily lives and business. Many of us are telecommuting and finding other ways to work remotely rather than in-person.

This may have changed where many of us do our work and how we interact, at least for now. But it has not affected our commitment to provide timely, usable information and continue the discussion with our customers and partners. Among other things, we are:
  • Reaching out to our partners in various ways, like our annual conference call with tax preparers on Sept. 15. We encourage you to attend. You can find details or a post-call recap on our website (www.revenue.state.mn.us/conference-calls-and-webinars).
  • Offering more webinars to replace in-person presentations, such as our new online Employment Tax Seminar.
  • Providing more educational videos on our website, including recent additions on Nonresident Withholding and Property Tax Deferral for Senior Citizens.
  • Posting draft tax year 2020 forms on our website (under Tax Professionals > Software Vendors). The drafts reflect current state and federal tax laws and will be updated for any changes.

As we prepare for the next filing season, please keep the questions and feedback coming so we can continue to meet your needs and, together, help Minnesotans. You can do that by emailing us at TaxLawChanges@state.mn.us.

Looking ahead

It seems clear we’ll continue to feel the effects of this pandemic — and needed social change will continue to be part of our public conversation — for some time. For example:
  • Discussion continues at the state and federal levels about further COVID-19 relief, which may include tax relief for individuals and businesses.
  • The economic impact from the pandemic will affect our state budget for the next few years. A recent estimate from Minnesota Management & Budget indicates a projected revenue shortfall of $4.7 billion for the 2022–23 biennium.
  • In July, the Legislature passed a police reform bill that affects how officers are trained, the use of deadly force and accountability for excessive force.

We do not know what the future holds, but 2020 clearly shows how important it is to have partners you can depend on. Thank you for your partnership.

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