Is 2015 the Beginning of Mandatory Single Sales Factor Apportionment for D.C. Taxpayers?

By and on August 13, 2014

On July 14, 2014, the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2014 (2015 BSEA) was enacted after the D.C. Council voted to override Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto.  The act includes a tax relief package recommended by the D.C. Tax Revision Commission, and includes a change to D.C.’s apportionment formula, moving the city to single sales factor apportionment.

Since January 1, 2011, D.C. has required taxpayers to apportion their business income by the property-payroll double-weighted sales factor formula.  D.C. Code Ann. § 47-1810.02(d-1).  Among the provisions enacted in the 2015 BSEA, the District will require the apportionment of business income via a single sales factor formula, starting with tax years beginning after December 31, 2014.  D.C. Act 20-0377, § 7012(c)(10) (2014).  While the 2015 BSEA has only a temporary effect and expires on October 12, 2014, it serves as a stopgap until the process of enacting the permanent version, the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Support Act of 2014 (2015 BSA) is completed.  (See the single sales factor apportionment provision at D.C. Bill 20-0750, § 7012(a)(10) (2014).)  The 2015 BSA has not yet been enrolled and transmitted to the mayor.  After the mayor signs the 2015 BSA or the D.C. Council overrides his veto, the 2015 BSA will be sent to Congress for review.  If Congress and the President do not enact a joint resolution disapproving of the 2015 BSA, the 2015 BSA will become law, and the switch to single sales factor apportionment will be effective as of January 1, 2015. 

Even with this legislative change, D.C. taxpayers may have an argument for apportioning their business income under the three-factor apportionment formula.  In 1981, the District adopted the Multistate Tax Compact (Compact) as 1981 D.C. Law 4-17.  The Compact provides for the use of the evenly weighted three-factor sales-property-payroll formula.  Multistate Tax Compact, art. IV, sec. 9.  The Compact permits the taxpayer to elect to apportion his business income under the city’s apportionment formula or under the Compact’s three-factor formula.  Multistate Tax Compact, art. III, sec. 1.  In 2013, D.C. repealed and reenacted the statute codifying the Compact, D.C. Code § 47-441.  However, D.C. did not re-enact Article III, Elements of Income Tax Laws, and Article IV, Division of Income.  The repeal of the two articles was effective as of July 30, 2013.  D.C. Act 20-130, §§ 7342(a), (b) (2013); D.C. Act 20-204, §§ 7342(a), (b) (2013); D.C. Law 20-61, §§ 7342(a), (b) (2013).

D.C. repealed and reenacted the Compact in reaction to litigation involving taxpayers that elected to use the three-factor apportionment formula under the Compact instead of the state-mandated apportionment formulas.  See Gillette Co. et al. v. Franchise Tax Bd., 209 Cal.App. 4th 938 (2012); Int’l Bus. Mach. Corp. v. Dep’t of Treasury, No. 146440 (Mich. Jul. 14, 2014); Health Net, Inc. v. Dep’t of Revenue, No. TC 5127 (Or. T.C. 2014).  The California Court of Appeal and Michigan Supreme Court have upheld the taxpayers’ use of the Compact election.

Following the theories being advanced in the above mentioned litigation, while D.C. is switching to the single sales factor formula, taxpayers may have the opportunity to apportion their business income under the Compact’s three-factor apportionment formula.  An argument exists that the three-factor Compact apportionment formula election is still available even though D.C. repealed and partly reenacted the Compact in 2013.  Article X of the Compact permits a party state to withdraw from the Compact “by enacting a statute repealing the same.”  An argument can be made that the partial repeal was impermissible under article X of the Compact and that the three-factor formula election is still available to D.C. taxpayers.  Once a member of the Compact, always a member?!?

Practice Note:  D.C. taxpayers should keep in mind that the Compact apportionment formula election may be available when they file their returns for the 2015 taxable year.  Because out-of-state taxpayers typically do not have significant property or payroll in D.C., they will likely benefit from electing to use the three-factor apportionment formula.

Diann SmithDiann Smith
Diann Smith focuses her practice on state and local taxation and unclaimed property advocacy. Diann advises clients at any stage of an issue, including planning, compliance, controversy, financial statement issues and legislative activity. Her goal is to find the most effective method to achieve a client's objective regardless of when or how an issue arises. Diann emphasizes the importance of defining a client's objective - whether it is finality of a frequently audited issue, quick resolution of a stand-alone tax liability, or avoiding competitive disadvantages in the application of a tax. The defined objective then governs the choice of the path to a solution. Read Diann Smith's full bio.


Stephen P. KranzStephen P. Kranz
Stephen (Steve) P. Kranz is a tax lawyer who solves tax problems differently. Over the course of his extensive career, Steve has acquired specific skills and developed a unique approach that helps clients develop and implement holistic solutions to all varieties of tax problems. He combines strategic thinking with effective skills for the courtroom, the statehouse and the conference room. Read Stephen P. Kranz's full bio.

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