Preparing for the Repeal of Cook County’s Beverage Tax: Requesting Credits and Refunds

Earlier this fall, the Cook County Board voted to repeal its constitutionally suspect, politically unpopular one cent per ounce sweetened beverage tax (Tax). The short-lived Tax will expire at the end of the County’s fiscal year on November 30, 2017.

Having been tasked with implementing the Tax, the Cook County Department of Revenue (Department) is now charged with unwinding it. Distributors and retailers who have paid the Tax are entitled to credits or refunds on their unsold inventory at month’s end. The Department recently issued guidance on the credit/refund procedure.

Retailers that have paid Tax to their distributors may claim a credit/refund from their distributors for Tax paid on their unsold inventory by completing the Department form entitled “2017 Sweetened Beverage Retailer Inventory Credit Request Form and Schedule A.” Retailers should complete and submit the form to their distributors, not the Department.

Distributors must file a final Tax return with the Department on or before December 20 (Final Return). To the extent a distributor already has refunded or credited Tax to its retailers, the distributor may claim a credit for the amount refunded on the “other deductions” line of its Final Return. Distributors must file the Department’s standard refund application, found on the Department’s website, to claim refunds for amounts refunded or credited to retailers after December 20. The Department has issued a new form (the “Sweetened Beverage Tax Distributor Credit Form Schedule”) to be submitted by distributors to the Department in support of any credit or refund claims. The form requires distributors to identify the retailers to which it has provided credits/refunds and the amounts thereof.

Retailers who self-remit the Tax may take a credit on their Final Return with supporting documentation. In addition, retailers that have unsold inventory as of December 1, on which they previously remitted floor tax, may obtain a refund of the floor tax through the Department’s standard refund procedure.

Practice Notes:

  1. To the extent possible, Taxpayers should take advantage of the opportunity to claim a credit on their Final Returns in order to avoid the time and expense associated with the County’s standard refund procedure.
  2. Since the Tax was repealed, enthusiasm has waned for various Illinois House Bills (HB 4082-84) proposing to limit the authority of localities to impose beverage taxes. It’s difficult to predict whether the bills will be enacted.
  3. However, the State of Michigan has passed legislation, signed into law by Governor Snyder on October 26, 2017, which prohibits municipalities from levying local taxes on food or beverages.

New California Office of Tax Appeals Discusses Emergency Regulations

The New California Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) on November 6, 2017, held an interested parties meeting in Sacramento to discuss the contents of a draft of emergency regulations to guide both income tax appeals from the California Franchise Tax Board and sales and use tax appeals from the California Department of Tax and Fee Appeals (CDTFA). The meeting was chaired by Kristen Kane, the newly appointed Chief Counsel and Acting Director of the OTA, and by Zack Morazzini, the Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Ms. Kane and Mr. Morazzini provided helpful insight on how the new OTA will operate, including the following:

  • The OTA is in the process of hiring 18 new ALJs.
  • Hearings will be held in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Fresno.
  • Hearings are expected to commence in late January, after a crash training program for the new ALJs.
  • Both Ms. Kane and Mr. Morazzini stressed the intention that the hearings be as informal and conversational as possible, bearing in mind that many, if not most, taxpayers will either appear pro per or be represented by non-attorneys.
  • Taxpayers will open the process by making a written submission, and the agencies will file a written brief in response. The procedures may be similar to the current practice before the State Board of Equalization, where the taxpayer submits a statement of facts and discussion of the law, and the facts as stated by the taxpayer are accepted unless the tax agency objects.
  • Where there is a disagreement on the facts, the burden will be on the taxpayer to come forward with supporting evidence.

In an informal discussion after the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Morazzini said that the Office of Administrative Hearings is proud of their long and successful run at conducting fair hearings in many contexts with flexibility being a paramount concern. At least at the outset, there will be no written rules on the presentation of evidence. Mr. Morazzini said that the Administrative Procedures Act and, generally, the rules of evidence allow ALJs to fashion orders responsive to discovery requests by either or both of the taxpayer or the agency, as required under the circumstance. Either party will have the right to request a preliminary meeting with an ALJ, or the ALJ can order a preliminary meeting. The preliminary meeting is intended to be informal, and will give taxpayers the opportunity to request the production of documents, stipulations and admissions. Note that OTA anticipates that the preliminary meeting will be attended by only one ALJ, although A.B. 102, the authorizing legislation, calls for a panel of three ALJs.

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SALT Implications of the House and Senate Tax Reform Bill

Many provisions of the House and Senate tax reform proposals would affect state and local tax regimes. SALT practitioners should monitor the progress of this legislation and consider contacting their state tax administrators and legislative bodies to voice their opinions.

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Finishing SALT: Inside SALT’s Monthly Recap

Wrapping Up October – and Looking Forward to November

As we wrap up October, you can view all of the topics we discussed over the last month and take a look at the State and Local Tax events where our lawyers will be speaking in November.

SALT Activities in November:

November 1, 2017: Jane May presented “State Conformity with Federal Income Tax Laws — Especially in Light of Possible Sweeping Federal Income Tax Legislation?” at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the California Tax Bar and California Tax Policy Conference.

November 2, 2017: Peter Faber presented an Update on SALT Developments at the Philadelphia Tax Conference. Continue Reading

California’s New Office of Tax Appeals Issues Preliminary Draft of Procedural Rules that Is Silent on Discovery Matters

As part of Governor Jerry Brown’s 2017 budget bill, the California State Board of Equalization (SBE) was stripped of its functions that had been authorized by statute, leaving principally property tax matters deriving from the state constitution. Sales and use tax and fee functions were moved to a newly created California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) as well as appeals in sales and use tax and fee matters from CDTFA was vested in a new Office of Tax Appeals (OTA), to become effective January 1, 2018. The OTA is scurrying to adopt rules before opening for business on January 1, 2018. It recently released an early draft of what will become emergency regulations. An informal public discussion meeting of the draft has been scheduled for November 6, 2017, in Sacramento. Continue Reading

Inaugural Seattle Tax in the City® | Highlights and Takeaways

McDermott extended its popular Tax in the City® program to Seattle, with a meeting on October 12 at the Amazon headquarters. McDermott established Tax in the City® in 2014 as a discussion and networking group for women in tax aimed to foster collaboration and mentorship, and to facilitate in-person connections and roundtable events around the country. The Seattle program was one of the best attended Tax in the City® events to date, featuring a CLE/CPE presentation about Privilege and the Ethics of Social Media by Cate Battin, Kristen Hazel and Jane May, followed by a roundtable discussion in which Elizabeth Chao and Sandra McGill discussed international issues related to income from digital products. Britt Haxton and Kristen Hazel discussed planning considerations related to federal tax reform, and Diann Smith provided the state and local tax considerations related to both issues. Continue Reading

Get Ready for the Countdown: Final Delaware Unclaimed Property Regulations Published

On October 1, 2017, the Delaware Department of Finance published final regulations in the Register of Regulations repealing its former unclaimed property regulations and promulgating a new reporting and examination manual.  See 21 DE Reg 336 (Oct. 1, 2017).  The final reporting and examination regulation contains no substantive changes from the revised version that was re-proposed on August 1, 2017.  As published, the regulations are set to be adopted and take effect on October 11, 2017. Continue Reading

Finishing SALT: Inside SALT’s Monthly Recap

Wrapping Up September – and Looking Forward to October

Upcoming McDermott Will & Emery SALT Activities in October:

October 9, 2017Stephen Kranz is presenting about “State Corporate Tax Reform Trends” at the National Taxpayers Conference Annual Meeting, Washington DC.

October 12, 2017: Cate Battin, Kristen Hazel, Britt Haxton, Jane May, Sandra McGill, Diann Smith and Elizabeth Chao are hosting and presenting at the inaugural Tax in the City® event in Seattle, Washington. They will cover topics such as attorney-client privilege and the ethics of social media (CLE/CPE), recent developments around US Tax Reform, and updates on state and local tax issues for Seattle and the surrounding areas.

October 20, 2017: Peter Faber will present on “State and Local Tax Aspects of Acquisitions” at PLI’s Conference on the Taxation of Mergers & Acquisitions in New York.

October 24, 2017: Arthur Rosen will be a panelist in “The Great ‘Debate’: Views on Significant State Tax Issues and A Salute to Paul Frankel” at COST’s 48th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

October 25, 2017: Alysse McLoughlin will present about “Financial Services Hot Topics” at COST’s 48th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

October 27, 2017: Arthur Rosen will be moderating numerous panels at the National Association of State Bar Tax Sections 38th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC: “State and Local Tax Issues before Congress” and “International Tax Proposals – What They Are All About.”

October 28, 2017: Alysse McLoughlin will be speaking at the National Association of State Bar Tax Sections 38th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC about “Apportionment & Market Based Sourcing – Where Are We Now?” Additionally, Peter Faber will speak at this same conference about the “Top 10 Tax Issues,” with Arthur Rosen moderating that presentation.

Wrapping up September:

Our September 2017 blog posts are available on insidesalt.com, or read each article by clicking on the titles below. To receive the latest on state and local tax news and commentary directly in your inbox as they are posted, click here to subscribe to our email list.

September 6, 2017: While Virginia Supreme Court Holds “Subject-To-Tax” Means “Actually Taxed,” Determination of “Actually Taxed” is Relatively Broad for Purposes of Addback Exception

September 14, 2017: Illinois DOR Proposes Use Tax Nexus Standards for Trade Show Retailers

September 15, 2017: South Dakota Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Remote Retailers; Next Step US Supreme Court?

September 28, 2017: Republican Leaders Release Tax Reform Framework

September 29, 2017: State and Local Tax Aspects of Republican Tax Reform Framework

September 29, 2017: Holders Beware: Delaware Department of State Notices to be Mailed in Two Weeks!

South Dakota Petitions US Supreme Court for Opportunity to Overturn Quill

On October 2, 2017, the State of South Dakota (State) filed its petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court (Court). A copy of the cert petition is available here and the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. et al., is expected to be docketed on October 3, 2017. The State is asking the Court to overturn its physical presence standard used to determine whether an entity has substantial nexus under the dormant Commerce Clause. This comes only a few weeks after the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled against the State in favor of the online retailer defendants, citing the Court’s physical presence standard upheld in Quill on stare decisis grounds.

Practice Note

This development comes as no surprise to the state and local tax community, and begins what is likely to be one of the most closely watched cert petitions in years. Going forward, the online retailers have three options: (1) acquiesce that the Court should grant cert; (2) waive their right to file a response to the cert petition; or (3) file a brief in opposition. If the online retailers choose the third option, they will have 30 days from today (if the case is in fact docketed today) to file their brief in opposition. This deadline is subject to extensions, upon request (the first of which is always granted as a matter of right). We expect a number of groups to file amicus curiae briefs regarding this cert petition given the significance of the issue raised. If the online retailers do file a brief in opposition, the State will be given an opportunity to file a reply brief, rebutting the points made by the online retailers and reiterating the arguments made in the State’s cert petition. Unlike the cert petition and the brief in opposition, which must be filed with the Court under strict deadlines, the exact timing of the reply brief varies. As a general rule of thumb, a reply brief is usually filed approximately 10 days after filing of the brief in opposition.

While this dispute is a long way from being heard by the Court on the merits (if at all), the cert petition is a critical first step that will have implications to Congress, the courts, state legislatures, taxpayers, and revenue departments across the country. Stay tuned for more coverage of this cert petition and the developments that follow.

Holders Beware: Delaware Department of State Notices to be Mailed in Two Weeks!

In two weeks, the Delaware Secretary of State (SOS) will begin mailing notices to holders who have been identified as likely being out of compliance with Delaware unclaimed property law. Holders that do not enroll in the SOS Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program (VDA Program) within 60 days of the mailing of this notice will be referred to the State Escheator for examination. Once an audit notice is issued, the SOS will have no legal ability to accept a holder into its VDA Program.

The VDA Program was put in place to respond to concerns about Delaware’s audit program and allow holders to come into compliance through a “self-audit” that is administered by the holder, as opposed to the State Escheator. The audit is overseen by a third-party provider that must approve the steps taken by the holder, but allows more flexibility in terms of the details and deadlines than a traditional audit. Delaware law requires that every company be provided with an opportunity to voluntarily comply prior to being issued an audit notice. For holders that receive a notice from the SOS in a little over two weeks, this letter will be their one opportunity to voluntarily come forward and enroll in the VDA Program and requires prompt decision making and evaluation, given the 60 days deadline and potentially significant implications.

It is still expected that the final Department of Finance (DOF) regulation required by SB 13 will be included in the October 1, 2017 Register of Regulations. If this holds true, companies currently under a Delaware audit authorized by the State Escheator on or before July 22, 2015, will have 60 days from October 1 (i.e., until November 30, 2017) to convert to the SOS VDA Program. Again, the same analysis and implications are at stake.

Practice Note

There is a lot for holders to consider in a very short period of time. Holders should be aware that there are may be more than the single, historic third-party provider in charge of administering the SOS VDA Program. Adding new providers creates uncertainty in the process and it is not clear how holders will be assigned to each provider.

Holders in need of advice on whether to enroll in the SOS VDA Program should reach out to the authors to discuss their options. Stay tuned for our analysis of the final DOF regulation, which will be posted shortly after publication.

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