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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.

Moments ago, the US Supreme Court issued its highly-anticipated decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., et al., No. 17-494. The 5-4 opinion was authored by Justice Kennedy and concluded that the physical presence requirement established by the Court in its 1967 National Bellas Hess decision and reaffirmed in 1992 in Quill is “unsound and incorrect” and that “stare decisis can no longer support the Court’s prohibition of a valid exercise of the States’ sovereign power.” This opinion will have an immediate and significant impact on sales and use tax collection obligations across the country and is something every company and state must immediately and carefully evaluate within the context of existing state and local collection authority.

Summary of Opinions

The majority opinion was authored by Justice Kennedy and was joined by Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito and Gorsuch. In reaching the conclusion that the physical presence rule is an incorrect interpretation of the dormant Commerce Clause, the opinion states that the Quill physical presence rule: (1) is flawed on its own terms because it is not a necessary interpretation of the Complete Auto nexus requirement, creates market distortions and imposes an arbitrary and formalistic standard as opposed to the case-by-case analysis favored by Commerce Clause precedents; (2) is artificial in its entirety and not just at its edges; and (3) is an extraordinary imposition by the Judiciary. The majority went on to conclude that stare decisis can no longer support the Court’s prohibition of a valid exercise of the States’ sovereign power, noting that “[i]t is inconsistent with this Court’s proper role to ask Congress to address a false constitutional premise of this Court’s own creation.” The majority noted that the South Dakota law “affords small merchants a reasonable degree of protection” and “other aspects of the Court’s [dormant] Commerce Clause doctrine can protect against any undue burden on interstate commerce.” The majority opinion specifically notes that “the potential for such issues to arise in some later case cannot justify an artificial, anachronistic rule that deprives States of vast revenues from major businesses.” Finally, the majority decision provides that in the absence of Quill and Bellas Hess, the first prong of Complete Auto simply asks whether the tax applies to an activity with substantial nexus with the taxing State and that here, “the nexus is clearly sufficient.” Specifically, the South Dakota law only applies to sellers that deliver more than $100,000 of goods or services into the State or engage in 200 or more separate transactions, which “could not have occurred unless the seller availed itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in South Dakota.” With respect to other principles in the Court’s dormant Commerce Clause doctrine that may invalid the South Dakota law, the majority held that “the Court need not resolve them here.” However, the majority opinion does note that South Dakota appears to have features built into its law that are “designed to prevent discrimination against or undue burdens upon interstate commerce” including: (1) a safe harbor for small sellers; (2) provisions that prevent a retroactive collection obligation; and (3) the fact that South Dakota is a member of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.

Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch both wrote a standalone concurring opinions. Justice Thomas acknowledged that he should have voted with Justice White in Quill to overturn Bellas Hess and Justice Gorsuch seemed to caution his concurrence should not be read as an agreement with all aspects of the dormant Commerce Clause (perhaps looking forward to future issues that may be before the Court).

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. The dissent argues that any alteration to the physical presence rule should be undertaken by Congress and that departing from the doctrine of stare decisis is an exceptional action demanding special justification, which is even further heightened in the dormant Commerce Clause context. The dissenting opinion went on to note that the majority “breezily disregards the costs that its decision will impose on retailers” and that the “burden will fall disproportionately on small businesses” which they note is something Congress could fix as part of a legislative solution. The Chief Justice Robert’s dissent concludes that “I fear the Court today is compounding its past error by trying to fix it in a totally different era.”

Practice Note and Next Steps

Today’s opinion raises no shortage of questions that will be discussed and further evaluated over the coming weeks and months. One thing that is clear from the decision is that the Court is still concerned about potential undue burdens that state tax systems may impose on businesses, particularly small businesses. The Court appears to have concluded that South Dakota’s imposition does not run afoul of those concerns, however, the door is open as to whether other states’ tax systems would satisfy the new requirements. The Court repeatedly emphasized that South Dakota’s participation in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement was an important factor in upholding the imposition of tax. The Court also cited South Dakota’s lack of retroactivity and a threshold as important factors as well.

States will obviously rejoice at the decision. Expect states to seek legislative and regulatory expansion of their “doing business” laws to align with the South Dakota v. Wayfair opinion, with significant activity in the next round of state legislative sessions.

The Court reiterated that Congress may act to address any of the concerns with the new standard. In fact, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion acknowledges that “Congress may legislate to address these problems if it deems it necessary and fit to do so.” Although little progress has been made in Congress on this issue for some time, the landscape is now changed and that may result in pushing Congress to act.

Minnesota has several bills pending that would address the Minnesota state tax implications of various provisions of the federal tax reform legislation (commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act).

HF 2942

HF 2942 was introduced in the House on February 22, 2018. This bill would provide conformity to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) as of December 31, 2017, including for corporate taxpayers. The bill makes clear that, with respect to the computation of Minnesota net income, the conformity to the Internal Revenue Code as amended through December 31, 2017, would be effective retroactively such that the federal provisions providing for the deemed repatriation of foreign earnings could have implications in Minnesota. Continue Reading Overview of Minnesota’s Response to Federal Tax Reform

On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Revenue (Department) issued additional guidance concerning its treatment of the new deemed repatriated foreign earnings provisions found in Internal Revenue Code Section 965, enacted in the federal tax reform bill (known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or “TCJA”).  The Department confirmed key aspects of Illinois’ treatment of the repatriation provisions, including:

  • Both the income inclusion and deduction provided for in the deemed repatriated foreign earnings provisions will be taken into account in determining a taxpayer’s tax base, so that the inclusion in Illinois will be net. The Department’s guidance references the new federal IRC 965 Transition Tax Statement, which a taxpayer must file with its 2017 federal return when reporting deemed repatriated foreign earnings; that statement includes both income under IRC 965(a) and the corresponding participation deduction under IRC 965(c).
  • Additionally, the Department’s guidance also confirms that the net amount included as deemed repatriated foreign earnings will be treated as a foreign dividend eligible for Illinois’ dividend-received deduction, which can be a 70 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent deduction depending on a taxpayer’s percentage share of ownership of the foreign subsidiary subject to the repatriation provisions. See 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(2)(O). (For tax periods beginning on or after January 1, 2018, 80 percent is reduced to 65 percent and 70 percent is reduced to 50 percent because this provision incorporates the federal dividend-received deduction rates found in IRC 243, which was amended as such by the TCJA.)

Continue Reading Illinois Confirms Treatment of Deemed Repatriated Foreign Earnings Provisions

It’s been nearly three months since the federal tax reform bill (commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or “TCJA”) was enacted and states continue to respond to the various provisions of the TCJA. Recently, there have been notable legislative efforts in New York, Idaho, Iowa and Minnesota.

New York

Starting with the release of the Governor’s Budget Bill in January 2018, the 30-day amendments to that Bill on February 15, and the amendments to the Assembly Bill and Senate Bill this month, there has been much action this legislative session concerning the potential response to federal tax reform. The proposed response in the two latest bills—the Assembly Bill (AB 9509) and the Senate Bill (SB 7509)—is discussed below. Continue Reading More States Respond to Federal Tax Reform

Virginia and Georgia are two of the latest states to pass laws responding to the federal tax reform passed in December 2017, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Both states updated their codes to conform to the current Internal Revenue Code (IRC) with some notable exceptions.

Virginia

On February 22, 2018, and February 23, 2018, the Virginia General Assembly enacted Chapter 14 (SB 230) and Chapter 15 (HB 154) of the 2018 Session Virginia Acts of Assembly, respectively. Before this legislation was enacted, the Virginia Code conformed to the IRC in effect as of December 31, 2016. While the new legislation conforms the Virginia Code to the IRC effective as of February 9, 2018, there are some very notable exceptions. The legislation explicitly provides that the Virginia Code does not conform to most provisions of the TCJA with an exception for “any… provision of the [TCJA] that affects the computation of federal adjusted gross income of individuals or federal taxable income of corporations for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2016 and before January 1, 2018…” Thus, despite Virginia’s update of its IRC conformity date, Virginia largely decouples from the TCJA. Continue Reading Southeast States Respond to Federal Tax Reform and NJ Senate Leader Talks Tax Surcharge to Limit Corporate “Windfall”

States are moving to advance different solutions in their efforts to address federal tax reform. Illinois recently introduced legislation to addback the new deduction for foreign-derived intangible income (a topic we’ve previously covered), and its Department of Revenue has issued its position on other aspects of federal reform. Oregon, after resolving a controversy between its senate and house, is about to pass legislation addressing deemed repatriation income and repealing its tax haven inclusion provisions.

Illinois Issues Guidance on Federal Tax Reform

On March 1, the Illinois Department of Revenue (Department) issued guidance explaining its position with respect to how various law changes made in the 2017 federal tax reform bill, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Act), will impact taxpayers in Illinois.

While, for the most part, the pronouncement provides a cursory analysis of the provisions of the Act and a conclusory statement as to whether each provision will result in an increase or decrease in a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (for individuals) or federal taxable income (for corporations), there are a few items that do warrant some specific mention.

With respect to Illinois’ treatment of the Act’s new international tax provisions, the Department provides some insight into treatment of deemed repatriated foreign earnings and global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI). For purposes of both the deemed repatriated foreign earnings and the GILTI, the Act provides that a taxpayer computes its taxable income by including an amount in income and taking a corresponding deduction to partially offset the inclusion. The Illinois guidance indicates that the inclusion in Illinois will be net, with both the income inclusion and the deduction taken into account in determining a taxpayer’s tax base. This is consistent with the provisions of the Illinois corporate income tax that provide that the Illinois tax base is a corporation’s “taxable income,” which is defined as the amount of “taxable income properly reportable for federal income tax purposes for the taxable year under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.” 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(1), (e).

Mitigating the tax impact of these provisions, the Department also takes the position that the amount included as deemed repatriated foreign earnings or as GILTI will be treated as a foreign dividend eligible for Illinois’ 100 percent dividend-received deduction. See 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(2)(O), (b)(2)(G). This rationale is in accordance with the provisions in the Illinois statute that provide a dividend-received deduction for dividends received or deemed received under Internal Revenue Code sections 951 through 965. Thus, because the deemed repatriated foreign earnings are included pursuant to section 965 and the new GILTI is included pursuant to section 951A, those amounts should both be dividends eligible for the dividend-received deduction.

In addition, the Department has specified that the new provision limiting the use of federal net operating losses (NOLs) in an amount equal to 80 percent of the taxpayer’s taxable income is a change that could provide an increased tax base or increased tax revenue to Illinois. Corporate taxpayers should not get confused, however. Illinois allows use of the federal NOL only for individuals. Corporate taxpayers, however, have to add back any federal NOL and then compute a separate NOL for purposes of the Illinois corporate income tax. Thus, neither the 80 percent limitation nor the change to unlimited carryforwards will impact the ability of a corporate taxpayer to use its NOL for purposes of the Illinois corporate income tax.

Nail Biting Success in Oregon on Tax Haven Repeal Following Federal Tax Reform

While drama surrounded Oregon’s legislation addressing aspects of federal tax reform, the end result provides clarity and relief for taxpayers with international affiliates. Oregon has now addressed the repatriation provisions of federal tax reform and is in the process of repealing its (hated) tax haven inclusion provision.

Oregon Senate Bill 1529-A addresses several elements of how the state will conform to federal tax reform. Oregon decided it needed to address reform rapidly because of the risk of a perceived windfall to taxpayers if the state did not change its existing dividend-received deduction statute. Absent the legislation, Oregon would have included both the repatriation addition and the deduction in its tax base and allowed its 80 percent dividend-received deduction against the gross, not the net. The adopted legislation changes this calculation. The legislation requires that amounts deducted for income repatriated under section 965 must be added back in calculating Oregon taxable income. This provision is added to ORS 317.267, the provision decoupling from the federal dividend-received deduction. The tax on the remaining amount would be due in year one, as there is no provision in the bill similar to the federal 8-year payment allowance. It is estimated that the state will receive approximately $160 million from the one-time deemed repatriation. Absent the change, the state would have lost $100 million.

The legislation provides additional relief from the tax on repatriated income. Oregon is one of the states that had adopted tax haven legislation, requiring income of the taxpayer’s affiliates incorporated in certain listed countries to be included in the taxpayer’s taxable income. ORS 317.716. As a result, Oregon may have already taxed some of the income now deemed repatriated. To alleviate any double taxation, new Section 33 in the bill allows a credit for taxes attributable to this income. The credit is limited to the lesser of the tax attributed to the repatriated income or the tax on the income included under ORS 317.716. Unused credits may be carried over five years.

The drama over passage of the bill revolved around a provision that repealed the tax haven inclusion provisions of ORS 317.716. The bill that passed the senate unanimously included the repeal of the tax haven provision. When it reached the house, however, Amendment –A9 removed the repeal. A hearing on the bill included testimony both for and against the repeal. Proponents argued that it was too soon to determine whether repeal was necessary and the tax haven provision should be maintained until the Department of Revenue completed a study to determine whether there was truly overlap between the tax haven inclusion and the GILTI provisions. McDermott provided written comments explaining why maintaining the tax haven provision was duplicative of the policy behind the new GILTI provision and would require complex computations to avoid double taxation when a taxpayer was subject to both GILTI and the tax haven inclusion. COST and the Tax Foundation also provided comments supporting the bill as passed by the senate that included the tax haven repeal language. The house ultimately passed a bill repealing the tax haven provisions, and the senate agreed in conference. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Under amendments to the bill, the Department of Revenue will have an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of GILTI, but it is not clear whether the pending budget bill will provide funding for this study.

Please contact us to join McDermott’s multi-state coalition, the STAR Partnership, which will address state business tax ramifications raised by federal tax reform. Further information is available here.

 

Due to the current impact and the likelihood that states will consider legislation and agency guidance addressing federal tax reform implications for state business taxes, a united, effective, nationwide advocacy effort is needed to ensure the issues are consistently addressed on a multi-state basis. In preparation for anticipated ramifications, a multi-state coalition will need to consider the subjects summarized below. For further coverage, continue reading here.

How McDermott Will & Emery Can Help You:

  • Formation of a coalition of companies and industry trade organizations dedicated to proactively addressing state tax issues raised by federal tax reform on a nationwide basis
  • Identify and track, in real time, proposed state legislative and regulatory responses to federal tax reform
  • Analyze proposed state reforms and develop substantive amendments and comments
  • Develop and implement advocacy campaigns to secure favorable legislative and regulatory outcomes, including
    • Preparation of all advocacy collateral
    • Organization of on the ground advocacy, including retaining in-state advocates where needed
    • Activating allied organizations to ensure broad support
  • Provide support concerning the proper reporting of state responses to federal tax reform on company financial statements

Coalition Goals: 

  • Prevent state legislation expanding tax base through decoupling from federal deductions
  • Support state legislation adopting comprehensive federal reform conformity, with appropriate deviations
  • Identify and remedy Commerce Clause issues
  • Encourage states revenue department to publish guidance on issues such as definitional questions, apportionment approaches and problems with different group calculations
  • Identify and act on opportunities to address related issues through state responses to federal reform
  • Prepare to address potential nexus changes in response to South Dakota v. Wayfair

Continue Reading McDermott’s Take on State Tax after Reform

Determining financial statement impact from the state flow through of federal tax reform will be complicated by changes in state tax policy expected to be adopted. In our latest Tax Takes video, McDermott’s Steve Kranz and Diann Smith discuss the issues with Joe Henchman, Executive Vice President of the Tax Foundation. The group suggests options for companies to protect against negative policy changes.

New York is the latest state to address certain state tax implications of the 2017 federal tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day amendments to the Governor’s Budget Bill were released on February 15 and one piece of the amended Bill explicitly addresses the foreign-earnings, deemed federal repatriation provisions in the new section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

Even before the release of the 30-day amendments, we expected the amount of foreign earnings deemed repatriated and brought into the federal income tax base under IRC § 965 would be considered “other exempt income” under the New York Tax Law and, thus, not subject to tax in New York as long as received from a unitary subsidiary. However, the Governor’s 30-day amendments make it clear that any amount included in the federal tax base under the repatriation transition provisions would be excludable from income, even if such amounts were received from a non-unitary subsidiary. This proposed exclusion for amounts deemed received from non-unitary subsidiaries is an expansion of New York’s usual policy. This expansion, however, would apply only with respect to the deemed repatriation of foreign earnings under IRC § 965.

The 30-day amendments also would make clear the federal deduction permitted under IRC § 965(c) (which facilitates a reduction of the effective federal tax rate on the deemed repatriated foreign earnings) would not be allowed in computing New York taxable income. We expected New York would make this proposed change because disallowing the § 965(c) deduction from New York taxable income would be consistent with excluding the deemed repatriation from taxable income.

Unlike other states, i.e., Connecticut, the Governor’s Bill does not address the amount of expenses attributable to the amount deemed repatriated under IRC § 965 and includable in the New York tax base. The Governor’s Bill would, however, provide that no penalties would be imposed for any failure to make sufficient estimated payments if the short-fall in payments is due to the increase in tax resulting from the inability to deduct such expenses from taxable income.

Please reach out to us with any questions about New York’s proposed treatment of the federal repatriation provisions or other questions about the potential law changes in New York.

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy released his Governor’s Bill addressing the various state tax implications of the federal tax reform bill enacted by Congress in December 2017, commonly referred to as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Among other things, the Governor’s Bill addresses Connecticut’s treatment of the foreign earning deemed repatriation tax provisions of amended section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). While the Governor’s Bill does not explicitly provide that the addition to federal income under IRC section 965 is an actual dividend for purposes of Connecticut’s dividend received deduction, the bill does protect Connecticut’s ability to tax at least part of the income brought into the federal tax base under the federal deemed repatriation tax provisions by defining nondeductible “expenses related to dividends” as 10 percent of the amount of the dividend. Continue Reading Connecticut Responds to the Federal Repatriation Tax