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Vermont Considers Imposing Mandatory Worldwide Combined Reporting

The Vermont House Committee on Ways and Means is actively exploring a proposal to become the first state to enact mandatory worldwide combined reporting for corporate income tax purposes. While legislation has not been formally proposed, the Committee has examined a working draft that could be embedded into a broader tax legislation package.

In Committee testimony supporting the adoption of mandatory worldwide combined reporting, Don Griswold, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, argued that multinational corporations “pay huge fees to sophisticated advisers to develop an endless variety of complex schemes that shift their profits offshore.” According to him, mandatory worldwide combined reporting would be “the complete solution” to stopping what he perceives as a “loophole for massive tax avoidance.” He also intimated that several companies are among those he believes are currently engaging in “tax avoidance,” even though he freely acknowledged that he worked in a “Big 4 accounting firm’s 600-person ‘state tax minimization’ group” for most of his career.

On the other hand, at least one representative from the Vermont Department of Taxes has suggested that worldwide mandatory combined reporting is not the panacea that Griswold claims it would be. In Committee testimony, Will Baker, assistant attorney general and general counsel at the Department of Taxes, pointed out that a corporation’s Vermont taxable income could increase or decrease under worldwide combined reporting depending on the profitability of the corporation’s domestic and overseas subsidiaries and the locations of the corporate unitary group’s sales throughout the world. Baker also suggested that the Department of Taxes would face practical challenges calculating the income of subsidiaries that are not part of a corporate filing at the US federal level. Finally, he added that “small states” should generally “have the same rules that other states have” to make it easier for taxpayers to comply with Vermont law.

The McDermott state & local tax team will be closely monitoring this legislative proposal to see whether the Vermont General Assembly takes heed of the advice of its own officials at the Department of Taxes.




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As Minnesota Moves Toward GILTI Taxation, New Jersey May Be Moving Away from It

We previously reported that the Minnesota Legislature was considering imposing mandatory worldwide combined reporting through an omnibus tax bill. Subsequent to our report and in the face of numerous criticisms, Minnesota Senate leaders backed away from the proposal. But ominously, those same leaders said they would examine other tax increases to make up for the (potentially hypothetical) revenue left on the table by moving away from mandatory worldwide combined reporting.

After a series of negotiations, an updated omnibus tax bill (HF 1938) emerged from the Minnesota Legislature conference committee over the weekend, which has already been passed by both the Minnesota House and Senate. Most notably for corporate taxpayers, the legislation:

  • Recouples Minnesota with the Internal Revenue Code provision providing for the inclusion of global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) (under IRC § 951A) in the corporate tax base while providing a 50% dividends received deduction (but no deduction under IRC § 250)
  • Reduces the dividends received deduction from 80% to 50% for corporations in which the recipient owns 20% or more of the stock and from 70% to 40% for corporations in which the recipient owns less than 20% of the stock and
  • Decreases a corporation’s maximum net operating loss deduction from 80% to 70% of taxable net income each year.

As no prior bills proposing these tax increases had been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature, these tax increases have been passed without any public hearing or public testimony. The rush to put these proposals together may explain why the legislation fails to address how income from GILTI must be accounted for in determining a taxpayer’s apportionment factor.

Minnesota’s move toward GILTI taxation is out of step with legislation introduced in New Jersey, which would increase the state’s GILTI deduction to 95% from 50%. The proposal, which is part of a broader legislative compromise package negotiated by New Jersey government officials and businesses, has the support of the chair of the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and has been publicly called “win-win” legislation by a New Jersey Division of Taxation representative.

As litigation addressing the constitutionality of taxing GILTI is already percolating through administrative appeals in numerous states, it is likely that New Jersey’s potential move away from GILTI taxation will prove to be the more fiscally prudent way to go.




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Be Careful What You Wish For: Minnesota May Be on the Precipice of Enacting Worldwide Combined Reporting at the Worst Possible Time

It has been widely reported that the Minnesota Legislature has advanced an omnibus tax bill that would require the inclusion of the “entire worldwide income” of combined corporate income tax filers engaging in a unitary business. Tax press outlets have made the broad claim that mandatory worldwide combined reporting will “add foreign subsidiaries’ profits” to Minnesota corporate tax returns. But these claims disregard how such a change in Minnesota’s tax regime would also bring worldwide losses into a combined filing group’s income (or loss) calculation. If Minnesota passes mandatory worldwide combined reporting legislation this year and economic expert predictions of an impending global recession come true, the state could see a significant decrease in revenue from its corporate income tax.

Claims that worldwide combined reporting will bring additional profits into the corporate tax base presuppose foreign subsidiaries added to a combined group are always profitable. But if the entities added to a combined group are unprofitable, the opposite would be true. Instead, the foreign entities would either decrease income subject to state corporate income taxation or increase losses that generate net operating loss carryforwards that will decrease state corporate income taxation in future years.

This isn’t just a hypothetical concern. Tax specialists who practiced in the wake of the 2008 global recession recall that states with combined reporting regimes often sought to force unitary groups of corporations to “decombine” in order to remove entities generating losses from the state corporate tax base. When attempts to decombine were unsuccessful (as many were), states were often forced to walk away from large assessments or pay large refunds to corporate taxpayers. Such experiences should serve as a reminder that combined reporting often can decrease a state’s revenues from a corporate income tax. In Minnesota’s case, the potential for lost tax revenues may only balloon if its legislature imposes worldwide combined reporting during a recession.

No state currently has a true mandatory worldwide combined reporting regime (Alaska only imposes it on specific industries), and concerns about bringing foreign loss companies into the combined group is one of many reasons why. If Minnesota were to break state ranks by imposing worldwide combined reporting and a US parent corporation determined the regime could cause its Minnesota taxable income to increase, the corporation would have every incentive to either avoid or decrease connections with the state—potentially causing the state to lose out on capital investments that bring jobs with high wages and benefits.

Further, any attempt to impose mandatory worldwide combined reporting is likely to cause an international backlash, along with potential federal action and litigation challenging Minnesota’s regime. In the immediate wake of a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision indicating, to a limited degree, that a state mandatory worldwide combined reporting regime could pass constitutional muster, the US Department of the Treasury completed a study outlining state taxing principles supported by “state, [...]

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Pennsylvania Cuts Corporate Tax Rate, Makes Other Changes to Corporate Tax Law

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed into law omnibus tax legislation to implement the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2022 – 2023 budget. Among other things, the enacted legislation: (1) cuts the corporate net income tax (CNIT) rate from 9.99% to 4.99% on a phased-in basis; (2) adopts market sourcing rules for intangible-related receipts; and (3) codifies the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s (DOR’s) CNIT economic nexus rules outlined in Corporation Tax Bulletin 2019‑04. Notably, the enacted legislation does not include Governor Wolf’s prior proposal to strengthen the Commonwealth’s related party interest and intangible expense addback statute.

CNIT RATE CUT

Pennsylvania’s CNIT rate is currently 9.99%—one of the highest corporate tax rates in the nation. The enacted legislation phases in a decrease of Pennsylvania’s CNIT rate as follows:

  • January 1, 1995, through December 31, 2022; 9.99%
  • January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2023; 8.99%
  • January 1, 2024, through December 31, 2024; 8.49%
  • January 1, 2025, through December 31, 2025; 7.99%
  • January 1, 2026, through December 31, 2026; 7.49%
  • January 1, 2027, through December 31, 2027; 6.99%
  • January 1, 2028, through December 31, 2028; 6.49%
  • January 1, 2029, through December 31, 2029; 5.99%
  • January 1, 2030, through December 31, 2030; 5.49%
  • January 1, 2031, and each year thereafter; 4.99%

MODIFICATION OF INTANGIBLES SOURCING RULE

The enacted legislation shifts Pennsylvania’s sourcing regime for receipts from intangibles from a cost-of-performance regime to a market-based regime. The legislation generally sources gross receipts from the sale, lease, or license of intangible property to the location the property is used. Further, the legislation generally sources receipts from a broker’s sales of securities to the location of its customer and receipts from credit card interest, fees, and penalties to the billing address of the cardholder.

The legislation also contains detailed sourcing rules for interest, fees, and penalties earned by a lender, generally sourcing those receipts:

  1. From loans secured by real property to the location of such real property;
  2. From loans related to the sale of tangible personal property to the location the property is delivered or shipped; and
  3. To the location of the borrower (if not otherwise addressed by the legislation).

These sourcing rule changes apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2022. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Note to the legislation, the purpose of the sourcing rule change is to “[a]lign[] the apportionment rules governing sales of intangible property with the sales of tangible personal property, real property and services to be consistent with market sourcing (i.e., where the purchaser paying for the sale or using the property is located).” As discussed in a prior blog post, the Pennsylvania legislature changed the sourcing regime for services from cost-of-performance to a market-based regime.

Nevertheless, the Pennsylvania DOR has insisted that current law requires the use of a market-based approach to source receipts from certain intangibles, despite the cost-of-performance statutory regime currently in effect. For tax years before 2014, the Pennsylvania DOR also employed a market-based approach [...]

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Seattle Payroll Expense Tax Upheld by State Appellate Court

This week, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a challenge to the recently enacted payroll expense tax in Seattle, WA. Seattle Metro. Chamber of Commerce v. City of Seattle, No. 82830-4-I, 2022 WL 2206828 (Wash. Ct. App. June 21, 2022).

The tax, which went into effect on January 1, 2021, applies to entities “engaging in business within Seattle” and is measured using the business’s “payroll expense” (defined as “compensation paid in Seattle to employees,” including wages, commissions, salaries, stock, grants, gifts, bonuses and stipends). The tax only applies to businesses with a payroll expense of more than $7 million in the prior calendar year, and compensation is considered “paid in Seattle” if the employee works more than 50% of the time in the city. Additionally, if the employee does not work in any city more than 50% of the time, the employee’s compensation is treated as though it was “paid in Seattle” only “if the employee resides in Seattle.”

Although the tax is based on employee compensation, the Washington Court of Appeals held that incidence of the tax is on the employer, not the employee. This was a critical distinction because, under Washington law, municipalities generally are prohibited from levying taxes directly on wages (e.g., an income tax). By finding that the tax incidence fell on the employers, the Court was able to define the tax as an excise tax on the employer’s privilege of doing business in the city.

As expected, the tax is already bringing in significant revenue for Seattle. In its first year on the books, the tax brought in more than $230 million. Yet, despite this new revenue (as well as revenue from several other recently enacted taxes), Seattle is still projecting a financing gap of more than $100 million for 2022. Taxpayers are concerned that the city will explore even more revenue options to help close the gap.

The McDermott tax team is constantly monitoring tax developments on a state-by-state basis and will provide updates on the PNW specifically as they are made known.




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New York State Department Intends to Finalize Corporate Tax Regulations This Fall

Almost seven years after it started releasing draft regulations concerning sweeping corporate tax reforms that went into effect back in 2015, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (Department) has issued guidance, stating that “the Department intends to begin the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) process to formally propose and adopt” its draft corporate tax regulations this fall.

The Department has released many versions of “draft” regulations addressing corporate tax reform since September 2015. However, these draft regulations have been introduced outside of the SAPA process because the Department intended to formally propose and adopt all draft regulations at the same time. In the meantime, the Department warned taxpayers that so long as the regulations remain in draft form, they are not “final and should not be relied upon.”

Now, the Department has given its first public signal that it is prepared to formally adopt the draft regulations later this year. On April 29, 2022, the Department released “final drafts” of regulations that address a variety of topics, including nexus and net operating losses, and indicated that it will release final draft regulations addressing “apportionment, including rules for digital products/services and services and other business receipts” this summer.

Notably, the draft regulations released on April 29 include new provisions, “largely modeled after the [Multistate Tax Commission (MTC)] model statute . . . to address PL 86-272 and activities conducted via the internet.” Like the MTC model statute, the new draft regulations take a broad view of internet activities that would cause a company to lose PL 86-272 protection. In one example, the draft regulations state that providing customer assistance “either by email or electronic ‘chat’ that customers initiate by clicking on an icon on the corporation’s website” would exceed the scope of protections provided under PL 86-272.

As it intends to formally propose the draft regulations this fall, the Department is “strongly” encouraging “timely feedback” on all final draft regulations. With respect to the final draft regulations released on April 29, the Department is asking for comments by June 30, 2022.




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Washington State Capital Gains Tax Held Unconstitutional

The Washington State capital gains tax, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, has been held unconstitutional by the Douglas County Superior Court. Created in 2021, the tax was ostensibly labeled an “excise” tax in an effort by the Washington State Legislature (Legislature) to avoid difficulties associated with implementing an income tax in the state of Washington. The judge, however, was not persuaded.

Citing to authority from the Washington State Supreme Court, the trial judge held that courts must look through any labels the state has used to describe the statute and analyze the incidents of the tax to determine its true character. Here, the judge reviewed the most significant incidents of the new tax, including:

  • It relies on federal income tax returns that Washington residents must file and is thus derived from a taxpayer’s annual federal income tax reporting;
  • It levies a tax on the same long-term capital gains that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) characterizes as “income” under federal law;
  • It is levied annually (like an income tax), not at the time of each transaction (like an excise tax);
  • It is levied on an individual’s net capital gain (like an income tax), not on the gross value of the property sold in a transaction (like an excise tax);
  • Like an income tax, it is based on an aggregate calculation of an individual’s capital gains over the course of a year from all sources, taking into consideration various deductions and exclusions, to arrive at a single annual taxable dollar figure;
  • Like an income tax, it is levied on all long-term capital gains of an individual, regardless of whether those gains were earned within Washington and thus without concern of whether the state conferred any right or privilege to facilitate the underlying transfer that would entitle the state to charge an excise;
  • Like an income tax and unlike an excise tax, the new tax statute includes a deduction for certain charitable donations the taxpayer has made during the tax year; and
  • Unlike most excise taxes, if the legal owner of the asset who transfers title or ownership is not an individual, then the legal owner is not liable for the tax generated in connection with the transaction.

The court found that these incidents show the hallmarks of an income tax rather than an excise tax, and because the new capital gains tax did not meet the uniformity and limitation requirements of the Washington State Constitution, it was unconstitutional.

The Washington State Attorney General has already indicated that the ruling will be appealed; in all likelihood, this issue will ultimately be decided by the Washington State Supreme Court. In the meantime, if you have questions about the Washington State capital gains tax, please contact Troy Van Dongen.




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Nebraska District Court Holds That GIL 24-19-1 is Not Afforded Deference

Last week, the Lancaster County District Court granted the state’s motion to dismiss in COST v. Nebraska Department of Revenue. COST brought this declaratory judgment action to invalidate GIL 24-19-1, in which the department determined that earnings deemed repatriated under IRC § 965 are not eligible for the state’s dividends-received deduction and are thus subject to Nebraska corporate income tax. COST has until July 19, 2021, to appeal the judge’s decision.

The state’s motion was brought on procedural grounds, one of which was that the GIL is a guidance document and not a “rule” such that a declaratory judgment was not permitted under Nebraska law. COST argued that although the GIL is labeled a guidance document, it is in substance a rule because it establishes a legal standard and explicitly penalizes taxpayers that do not comply. The district court determined that the GIL is not a rule and granted the state’s motion. The district court did not address the substantive issue of whether 965 income is eligible for the dividends received deduction.

While on its face this decision may seem to be a taxpayer loss, the language of the judge’s order suggests otherwise. In finding that the GIL is not a “rule,” the judge determined that the GIL was a mere interpretation of the law that was not binding on the taxpayer and not entitled to any deference by the Nebraska courts. This strengthens an already strong taxpayer case on the merits.

The department’s position that 965 income is not eligible for the dividends-received deduction is inconsistent with the legislative history of the deduction and the nature of 965 income. The fact that a judge stated that this position is now afforded no deference only makes the taxpayer case stronger.

As a practical matter, taxpayers that have appealed assessments on 965 income should consider including the deference argument in their appeals, and taxpayers that have followed the GIL and paid tax on 965 income may consider filing refund claims. The substance of this issue will be litigated one way or another, and the district court’s finding that the GIL is not afforded deference can only help the taxpayer case.




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Kansas Decouples from GILTI and 163j

Yesterday afternoon the Kansas legislature overrode Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill (SB) 50, effectively enacting the provisions of the bill into law. Among those are provisions decoupling from certain Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provisions that taxpayers have been advocating for since 2018.

Under the new law, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2020, taxpayers receive a 100% deduction for global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) included in federal income. Furthermore, the new law is explicit that foreign earnings deemed repatriated and included in federal income under IRC § 965 are considered dividend income and eligible for the state’s 80% dividend-received deduction. The new law also decouples from the interest expense deduction limitation in IRC § 163(j), enacted as part of the TCJA for tax years beginning after December 31, 2020.

A Kansas decoupling bill was first proposed in 2019. Decoupling efforts faced an uphill battle because of the Kansas legislature’s reluctance to pass laws that could be perceived as tax cuts. The 2019 bill was vetoed by Governor Kelly, but that bill was not overridden by the legislature. The STARR Partnership and its members have worked closely with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce on the Kansas decoupling efforts and finally, in this legislative session, advocates were able to persuade the legislature that the decoupling provisions were not tax cuts but provisions designed to prevent a tax increase. This is a great result in Kansas and serves as a welcomed reminder that states that tax GILTI and 965 income (cough, cough, Nebraska) are outliers.




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DC and New Jersey Join Mississippi in Disregarding Coronavirus-Caused Remote Work for Tax Purposes

As part of our open letter to state tax administrators urging relief of undue tax administration burdens in light of COVID-19, we urged the disregarding of remote work for tax purposes. The public health necessity for businesses to close central operations and direct employees to work from home should not be used as an “opportunity” to create nexus for affected businesses.

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