Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sign of the Times

A change in administrative practice in Maryland shows the degree to which the internet has become woven into the fabric of business life.

In this state, businesses must file an annual tangible personal property tax return by April 15 of each year. In order to remain in good standing, certain entities, such as corporations and LLCs, must file annual returns and pay a $300 filing fee even if they have no tangible personal property. In previous years, extensions were routinely granted if a request for extension was mailed and postmarked by April 15 or faxed to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation by that date.

Beginning this year, in order to obtain an extension via a paper document, the document must be postmarked by March 15 and there is a $20 fee. Extension requests filed over the internet, however, are free and can be filed as late as April 15. Extension requests are no longer granted via fax or telephone. The change is explained here.

Of course, the number of personal and business income tax returns that are e-filed has grown geometrically in the past few years. But this is the first instance of which I am personally aware that the use of a traditional method of communication is discouraged by a governmental organization through the imposition of a transaction fee and the erection of other hurdles. It is a signal that the ownership of a computer and the use of the internet is coming to be viewed as being no more exceptional than the ownership and use of a telephone.

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