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BREAKING NEWS: More States Opt Not to Tax GILTI

This has been an eventful and exciting week for those interested in the states’ taxation of global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI). On Monday, taxpayers received the good news that New York Governor Cuomo signed S. 6615—a bill that excludes 95% of GILTI from the New York State corporate income tax base. By passing this bill, New York joins many other states—including neighboring states Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania—that chose not to tax a material portion of GILTI. The New York law instructs taxpayers that have GILTI to include the 5% of GILTI that is taxed in the denominator of the apportionment formula (no portion of GILTI is included in the numerator of the apportionment formula).

Perhaps not surprisingly, after the New York news broke, the Florida legislature presented its GILTI exclusion bill (HB 7127) to Governor DeSantis. HB 7127 passed the legislature back in May but had not been transmitted to the governor until yesterday. Those on the ground in Florida believe that the transmittal to the governor now, on the heels of the New York legislation, suggests that the governor will sign the bill. The governor has 15 days to sign or veto the bill (if he does neither, the bill becomes law after the 15-day period).

There was also GILTI action on the west coast. On Monday, the Oregon legislature passed a bill (SB 851) that allows taxpayers to deduct 80% of GILTI under the state’s dividend-received deduction. While, under this legislation, Oregon would tax a larger portion of GILTI than many other states, the willingness of the legislature to extend the 80% deduction to GILTI is consistent with the trend among states to not tax this new category of income from foreign operations. The bill has not yet been signed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown.




Hut, Hut, Phlmph — Florida Judge Denies Dismissal of Tax on Delivery Charges Lawsuit

In the latest development in the Florida litigation regarding the taxation of delivery charges, Judge Jack Tuter of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida determined that the complaint against Pizza Hut was sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Order, Lauren Minniti v. Pizza Hut of America, No. 14-023335 CACE (07), 2015 WL 5037164 (Fla. 17th Cir. Ct. Aug. 26, 2015). The case is fashioned as a class action, but it is still in the early stages and the class has not yet been certified.

The substantive tax question in this case is whether Pizza Hut is liable to Plaintiff (and possibly a class of plaintiffs) for damages based on sales tax charged on a delivery fee paid in connection with a food delivery. (Read previous discussion of delivery fee litigation). Pizza Hut charged the plaintiff $0.17 in sales tax on the separately stated charge for delivering food. The plaintiff asserts that Florida law does not impose sales tax on delivery fees if a customer has the option to pick up the delivered goods. The plaintiff raised three counts against Pizza Hut: (1) violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act; (2) negligence; and (3) unjust enrichment. The only issue in the motion to dismiss was whether the plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to support the causes of action. A similar case is pending against Papa John’s Pizza.

In its motion, Pizza Hut had first argued that Plaintiff’s sole statutory remedy was the difference between what Pizza Hut collected and the amount Pizza Hut paid to the state. Because Pizza Hut remitted the entire amount, no remedy was available. Judge Tuter determined that this was not a proper assertion in a motion to dismiss, but that it could be raised as an affirmative defense to the plaintiff’s substantive claims.

Secondly, Pizza Hut argued that the actions alleged by the plaintiff did not amount to an unfair or deceptive act. The judge determined that this was a factual determination not subject to a motion to dismiss. Similarly, the judge also found the plaintiff had included sufficient factual allegations in her complaint to allege negligence.

Finally, Pizza Hut argued that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim, because she had not exhausted her administrative remedies—specifically, she had not requested a refund directly from the state. The judge rejected this position because Florida regulation provides that “[a] taxpayer . . . who has paid a tax to a dealer when no tax is due, must secure a refund of the tax from the dealer and not from the Department of Revenue.” Fla. Admin. Code R. 12A-1.014 (4).

Pizza Hut must now file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint and dispositive motions will be heard regarding the appropriateness of certifying the case as a class action.

Practice Note — Taxation of delivery fees is complicated.

This case is an example of the complexity in dealing with sales taxes that may [...]

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MTC to Hold Transfer Pricing Group Meeting with Third-Party Contract Auditors

On October 6 and 7, 2014, the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) will hold an Arm’s-Length Adjustment Service (ALAS) Advisory Group Conference at the Atlanta Airport Marriott.  On the first day, third-party contract auditors will give presentations on transfer pricing issues.  An ALAS Advisory Group meeting will be held on the second day.

This past year, the MTC has been designing a joint transfer pricing program.  So far, nine members have committed money to the development of this program: Alabama, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Dan Bucks, former executive director of the MTC and former director of the Montana Department of Revenue, is the project facilitator.  In the lead-up to the event, he discussed arm’s-length issues with numerous third-party contract auditors.  On October 6, the contract auditors will explain how they believe a multistate transfer pricing program should work and how the MTC would best use their services to conduct transfer pricing audits on behalf of member states.

The list of contract auditors includes Chainbridge Software, Economics Analysis Group, Economists Incorporated, NERA, Peters Advisors, RoyaltyStat and WTP Advisors.  While project facilitator, Dan Bucks, has indicated that this meeting is not an audition for a procurement process, the discussion seems to be headed in that direction and the MTC has not ruled out utilizing third-party audit assistance in the transfer pricing program.

Businesses concerned with the overall direction of the ALAS Advisory Group, including the possibility of subjecting taxpayers to Chainbridge-style audits on a nationwide scale, should contact the authors.  For more information on the conference, please visit the MTC ALAS webpage.




Retailers Caught in the Middle: To Tax or Not to Tax Delivery Fees

Over the past decade we have seen a large increase in the number of third party tax enforcement claims against retailers involving transaction taxes (see Multistate Tax Commission Memorandum regarding survey of class action refund claims and false action claims, dated July 12, 2013, describing such actions).  The lawsuits typically are brought either as proposed class actions, alleging an over-collection of tax, or as whistleblower claims on behalf of state governments, alleging a fraudulent under-collection of tax owed to the state or municipality.  With respect to certain issues, including shipping and handling charges, retailers have been whipsawed with lawsuits alleging both under- and over-collection of tax.

On April 3, a proposed class action lawsuit was filed in Florida alleging that Papa John’s Pizza was improperly collecting tax on its delivery fees (Schojan v. Papa John’s International, Inc., No. 14-CA-003491 (Circuit Court Hillsboro County, Florida)).  The lawsuit is similar to an action filed in Illinois that resulted in an Illinois Supreme Court ruling rejecting a proposed class action claim that a retailer was improperly collecting tax on its shipping charges (Kean v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 919 N.E.2d 926 (Illinois 2009)).

Both Florida and Illinois impose sales tax on services that are inseparably linked to the sale of tangible personal property (see, e.g., 86 Ill. Admin. Code § 130.415(b) & Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 12A-1.045(2)).  The regulations provide that whether a customer has separately contracted for shipping charges, or has an option to avoid shipping charges by picking up the property at the retailer’s location, can be used as a proxy to determine whether the services are separate and thus not taxable (86 Ill. Admin. Code § 130.415(d); Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 12A-1.045(4)(a), (b)).

In Kean, the Illinois Supreme Court held that shipping charges were a taxable part of an internet sale in which the customer had no option but to pay shipping charges.  After the ruling, the Illinois Department of Revenue made no announced change to its commonly understood audit position that sales tax was not owed on separately stated shipping charges that were assessed at a retailer’s actual cost.

Seeking to capitalize on the Kean ruling, an Illinois law firm has filed upwards of 150 lawsuits under the Illinois False Claims Act against retailers that do not collect tax on the shipping and handling charges associated with their internet sales, alleging an intentional failure to collect tax and seeking treble damages, attorneys’ fees and associated penalties.  The suits were filed without regard to whether the retailers had been audited and found not to owe tax on their shipping and handling charges.  The State has declined to intervene in the majority of these cases, permitting the Relator to proceed with the prosecution.  Because the amounts at issue are small (6.25 percent tax on shipping and handling charges), the lawsuits force many retailers to choose between paying an (entirely undeserved) settlement to resolve the litigation or bearing the expense of litigation.  For reasons not entirely clear, the Illinois General Assembly [...]

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