Bond Rating Agencies Recognize Delaware’s Strong Fiscal Management

Bond refunding saves taxpayers $15 million

WILMINGTON, Del. – Delaware’s proactive fiscal management has been recognized with the announcement of the State’s triple-A bond ratings and an upgrade of the rating for Delaware Transportation Authority (DTA) bonds. The State’s ratings were issued in advance of the refunding of $123 million of Series 2009D Build America Bonds that will save Delaware taxpayers more than $15 million over the next decade. DTA’s ratings were issued as the Authority priced $138 million of new Series 2019 Transportation System Senior Revenue Bonds. Bond ratings reflect an issuer’s financial management policies and practices, ability to make future debt service payments, and economic strength, stability and diversity. Both the State and DTA’s bond issues were priced at interest rates that will result in historically low costs for Delaware taxpayers. 

“Delawareans expect us to responsibly manage taxpayer dollars, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Governor John Carney. “We have an ongoing commitment to ensuring that our fiscal house is in order. These important bond issues and our excellent bond ratings will save us money, and help finance important infrastructure projects like schools and roadway projects all across our state.”

The State’s August refunding refinanced $123 million of outstanding debt through a competitive bid process resulting in a 1.12% all-in borrowing cost — the lowest in modern state history for debt of a similar maturity. The State general fund will realize savings of $1.12 million in the current fiscal year alone. The original bonds financed numerous capital projects including schools, libraries, and other state infrastructure projects.  

“The State’s very successful refinancing reflects a team effort by the Carney Administration, the General Assembly, and our financial and legal advisors,” said Secretary of Finance Rick Geisenberger. “Delaware’s premier bond rating reflects many years of prudent fiscal management and recent efforts to limit operating budget growth, boost reserves during good times, and steer one-time revenues to one-time projects. Our goal continues to be preserving the State’s financial flexibility while ensuring that public borrowing is done responsibly and affordably.”

DTA priced its $138 million of new bonds at a competitive all-in rate of 2.11%. This rate followed the announcement that DTA’s bond rating was upgraded by Moody’s Investor Services from Aa2 to Aa1 while Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its AA+ rating. Moody’s also upgraded the Authority’s outstanding US 301 Project Revenue Bonds Series 2015 from A1 to Aa3 and its Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Series 2015 Bonds from A2 to Aa3. The Delaware Department of Transportation’s steady reduction in its overall debt combined with continued positive trends in toll, DMV and motor fuel revenues helps lower the cost of capital and frees up funding to further maintain and improve transportation infrastructure throughout Delaware.    

“We are very pleased with the rating services’ upgrade, and having a strong rating enables the Department to get the most out of every taxpayer dollar,” said Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan. “DelDOT is excited to continue delivering on Delaware’s largest Capital Transportation Program in its history.”

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Scam Alert: Revenue Warns Taxpayers of Fraudulent Letters

 

Example Scam Letter April 2019

The Delaware Division of Revenue wants to alert citizens to a new taxpayer scam that is happening in Delaware. Victims may receive a letter from “The Bureau of Tax Enforcement” that threatens property seizure and wage garnishment unless they call a toll-free number to “avoid enforcement.”

“These scam mailings are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking they have received an official communication from the Division of Revenue,” warns Director Jennifer R. Hudson. The notices threaten the seizure of the taxpayer’s property if the recipient fails to make immediate payment. The scammers are accessing public records in order to include taxpayer-specific information on the notices to make them appear legitimate, and then using pressure tactics and fear to motivate the recipient into taking immediate action.

Taxpayers who think they may have received such a letter should contact the Division of Revenue at (302) 577-8200, option 3, with any questions. Taxpayers should also file a Consumer Complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Unit. Information about the complaint process is available at https://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/fraud/cpu/ and the complaint form is available online – Consumer Complaint Form.


Tax Reform and Your Delaware Itemized Deductions

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), individuals were permitted to claim an unlimited amount of state and local real property and income taxes paid as itemized deductions. Starting with tax years 2018, those deductions will be limited.

Delaware follows federal law regarding itemized deductions, and taxpayers will be entitled to an itemized deduction for state and local taxes equal to the total real property taxes and local income taxes paid – up to the maximum $10,000 (or $5,000 for married individuals filing a separate or combined separate return).

Taxpayers will continue to be allowed to claim itemized deductions on a Delaware return, even if the taxpayer has claimed the standard deduction on a federal return.

For more information, and detailed examples, the Delaware Division of Revenue has published a Technical Information Memorandum, available here: https://de.gov/tim201901.


Overstated Withholding May Delay Your Tax Refund

With tax season well underway, Division of Revenue officials are noting an uptick in Delaware returns reporting overstated Delaware income tax withholding. The appropriate amount to report is limited to the total in Box 17 of the W-2 form provided by your employer (or the sum of those amounts if you have multiple employers), plus any state income tax withholding reported on a Form 1099-R.

Division of Revenue Director, Jennifer R. Hudson, Esq. noted “We are reviewing all returns that have overstated withholding, and they may be treated as fraudulent returns.”

Overstated withholding can be a sign of fraud, and returns with higher amounts than usual are being treated as suspicious. That means these returns will be pulled for review, extending the length of time required to process your return – and potentially delaying your refund.

If you have questions about the appropriate amounts to report, please contact the Division of Revenue Public Service area at 302-577-8200, or 1-800-292-7826.


Delaware’s Office of Unclaimed Property Website Is Moving

State Escheator and Office of Unclaimed Property Director Brenda Mayrack this week announced that Delaware’s Office of Unclaimed Property will be moving its website to unclaimedproperty.delaware.gov. By federal policy, U.S. government-related domain names (“.gov”) are only available to official governmental organizations in the United States. Originally launched in October of 2015, delaware.findyourunclaimedproperty.com has provided the public with easy access to the state’s searchable unclaimed property database, and allowed visitors to submit and check claim status online. The basic website and all of its functionality will remain the same, and visitors to the old address will be automatically redirected to unclaimedproperty.delaware.gov in the short term.

“Given the high number of unclaimed property scams we see across the country, we want to increase confidence among owners trying to recover property held here in Delaware,” said Director Mayrack. “With the new domain, users will be able to immediately recognize that they are using an official state website.”

Additionally, the site now offers enhanced property searching. Potential claimants may perform their own searches online anytime, or they may submit a request for an enhanced search to be completed by Delaware’s Unclaimed Property staff.

Unclaimed Property holders, which include banks, insurance companies and other business entities, should note that they must now file all reports via the website – the Office of Unclaimed Property no longer accepts filings on paper or other digital media. Holders (inclusive of most business entities, except banking organizations and insurance companies) who must comply with the state’s approaching March 1, 2019 spring reporting deadline should note the new website to ensure timely filing of their reports. All holders must report by uploading a National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA)-compliant file or by using the Manual Online Reporting option. Manual Online Reporting allows holders with only a few properties to enter the property and report details online, and avoid the expense of creating a NAUPA-compliant file. For technical assistance with reporting, please see the Updated Holder Reporting guidelines available online, or contact Delaware’s Holder Reporting Unit at: escheat.holderquestions@delaware.gov or 302-577-8782, option #2.