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Illinois Enacts Pass-Through Entity Tax to Help Partners and S Corporation Shareholders Avoid the $10,000 SALT Cap

Illinois enacted a pass-through entity tax (PTE Tax) that may be elected by partnerships and S corporations to permit a federal deduction of state income taxes that otherwise are limited to $10,000 per year from 2018 to 2025 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). State income taxes paid by individuals, whether attributable to pass-through entity income or other income, are subject to the TCJA’s $10,000 “SALT Cap.”

In Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2020-75, the IRS announced its approval of the federal deduction of state PTE Taxes paid by the entity in circumstances where the partner or shareholder receives a state tax credit, and the PTE Tax essentially is paid in lieu of the state income tax otherwise imposed upon the partner or S corporation shareholder.

The new Illinois PTE Tax was signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker on August 27, 2021 (Public Act 102-658) and applies to taxable years ending on or after December 31, 2021, and prior to January 1, 2026. Eighteen other states have also enacted PTE Taxes and 14 of those (including Illinois) are effective for 2021.

TAX AT ENTITY LEVEL

The Illinois PTE Tax is imposed on electing partnerships and S corporations at a rate of 4.95%, the flat income tax rate applicable to individuals. The tax is imposed upon the Illinois net income of the partnership or S corporation, which is equal to Illinois base income after apportionment or allocation. As discussed below, partners and S corporation shareholders may claim a refundable Illinois credit equal to their distributive share of the Illinois PTE Tax paid by the partnership or S corporation. Illinois base income of a partnership or S corporation for purposes of the PTE Tax is computed without deduction of Illinois net loss carryovers or the standard exemption. It’s also computed after addback of the partnership subtraction modification for reasonable compensation of partners (including guaranteed payments to partners) and the subtraction modification for income allocable to partners or shareholders subject to the Illinois “replacement tax.” The PTE Tax does not affect the replacement tax computation.

The Illinois PTE Tax is paid by the partnership or S corporation on all of its Illinois net income after apportionment or allocation. As a result, any tax exempt owner of a partnership or S corporation may be required to file Illinois refund claims in order to recoup PTE Taxes paid at the entity level (including as estimated payments). In some cases, this may be avoided by forming an upper-tier partnership for partners that are not tax exempt. Other states have avoided this problem by permitting the PTE Tax to be elected on a partner-by-partner basis rather than for the entity as a whole (e.g., California) or by imposing the PTE Tax only upon income that is allocable to partners subject to the state’s personal income tax (e.g., New York State).

TIERED PARTNERSHIPS

In the case of tiered partnerships, if a lower-tier partnership makes the PTE Tax election, the upper-tier [...]

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False Claims Act Tax Expansion Bill Advanced by DC Council

The DC Council has once again advanced a bill (the False Claims Amendment Act, B23-0035) that would allow tax-related false claims against large taxpayers! The bill passed a first reading of the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, by a vote of 8-5. The bill is sponsored by Councilmember Mary Cheh, who introduced identical bills over the past few legislative sessions that ultimately were not passed. The troubling bill is now eligible for a second (and final) reading at the next legislative meeting on Tuesday, December 1, 2020.

As introduced, the bill would amend the existing false claims statute in the District of Columbia to expressly authorize tax-related false claims actions against a person that “reported net income, sales, or revenue totaling $1 million or more in the tax filing to which the claim pertained, and the damages pleaded in the action total $350,000 or more.” If enacted, it would make the District one of only a few jurisdictions that allow tax-related false claims actions across the country.

Practice Note:

The advancement of this legislation by the DC Council is a very troubling development for taxpayers doing business in the District and threatens to subject them to the same nightmares (and the cottage industry of plaintiffs’ lawyers) that states like Illinois and New York have allowed over the past decade. Because the current false claims statute includes an express tax bar, this bill would represent a major policy departure in the District. See D.C. Code § 2-381.02(d) (stating that “[t]his section shall not apply to claims, records, or statements made pursuant to those portions of Title 47 that refer or relate to taxation”). As we have seen in jurisdictions like New York and Illinois, opening the door to tax-related false claims can lead to significant headaches for taxpayers and usurp the authority of the state tax agency by involving profit-motivated private parties and the state attorney general (AG) in tax enforcement decisions.

Because the statute of limitations for false claims is 10 years after the date on which the violation occurs, the typical tax statute of limitations for audit and enforcement may not protect taxpayers from false claims actions. See D.C. Code § 2-381.05(a). Treble damages would also be permitted against taxpayers for violations, meaning District taxpayers would be liable for three times the amount of any damages sustained by the District. See D.C. Code § 2-381.02(a). A private party who files a successful claim may receive between 15–25% of any recovery to the District if the District’s AG intervenes in the matter. If the private party successfully prosecutes the case on their own, they may receive between 25–30% of the amount recovered. This financial incentive encourages profit-motivated bounty hunters to develop theories of liability not established or approved by the agency responsible for tax administration. Allowing private parties to intervene in the administration, interpretation or enforcement of the tax law commandeers the authority of the tax agency, creates [...]

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Alert: California False Claims Expansion Bill Advances to the Senate

Like the days of the Old West, last week a masked gang held up local businesses demanding their wallets. Unlike the days of the Old West, this was not the hole-in-the-wall gang, but the California State Assembly who, on June 10, 2020, approved AB 2570, a bill that authorizes tax-based false claims actions. If passed, AB 2570 would expand the California False Claims Act (CFCA) to allow private, profit-motivated parties to bring punitive civil enforcement tax-based lawsuits. The bill now heads to the California Senate where its predecessor bill, AB 1270, failed last year.

According to the bill’s author, Assembly Member Mark Stone, there are two key differences between AB 2570 and last year’s AB 1270. First, AB 2570’s definition of “prosecuting authority” has been revised to remove the term “counsel retained by a political subdivision to act on its behalf.” In his comments on the Assembly floor, Stone explained that this amendment was “sought by the bill’s opponents” as it prevents local governments from contracting with private attorneys to bring tax CFCA lawsuits.

Second, AB 2570 mandates that a plaintiff’s complaint must be kept under seal for 60 days and can only be served on a defendant by court order. According to Stone, this second amendment will prevent qui tam attorneys from bringing suit if they send demand letters to the taxpayer before the expiration of this 60-day period.

Although these amendments are minor improvements upon last year’s bill, they are not enough to prevent the rampant abuse that will certainly accompany an expansion of the CFCA. Moreover, as Stone has acknowledged AB 2570 rests on the faulty premise that insider information is generally required to establish a “successful” tax enforcement claim. In his comments to the assembly, Stone stated:

No one questions the ability of the Franchise Tax Board and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) to skillfully administer the tax law within their respective jurisdictions. This bill, rather, rests on the premise that there are individuals—often current or former employees of a company—who have access to information establishing that tax authorities have been misled as to the amounts owed by the company. These cases are difficult to uncover without the cooperation of an insider because there is no other way to bring the relevant documents and information to light if a company is determined to commit fraud.

However, as evidenced by the states where an FCA has been expanded to tax cases, such as Illinois and New York, very few FCA tax cases involve internal whistleblowers, actual fraud or reckless disregard of clear law. Instead, they typically involve inadvertent errors or good-faith interpretations of murky tax law. As a result, expanding the CFCA to tax claims will only serve to hurt good-faith taxpayers who are already struggling to survive and recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. Such legislation could force taxpayers to incur enormous costs or pressure them into settlements to make the case go away to avoid the [...]

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False Claims Never Die in California

Recently, AB 2570 has cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which authorizes tax-based false claims actions—allowing private, profit-motivated parties to bring punitive civil enforcement lawsuits. The bill is now on the Assembly floor for consideration and faces a June 19 house-of-origin deadline for passage. The bill is similar to a bill that failed to pass last year (AB 1270) after encountering intense opposition.

California’s current False Claims Act (FCA) bars its use in tax cases, a similar practice followed by most states with FCAs. This leaves initiation of tax enforcement to tax agencies that interpret and enforce those laws. In states where a FCA has been expanded to tax cases, such as in Illinois and New York, very few cases involve internal whistleblowers, actual fraud or reckless disregard of clear law. Instead, they typically involve inadvertent errors or good-faith interpretations of murky tax law. FCA expansion undermines taxpayer reliance on tax agency interpretations and guidance, since alternative interpretations can be used by plaintiffs as the basis for their lawsuits against taxpayers.

Who brings FCA tax actions? Claims in the tax realm are primarily developed and driven by a cottage industry of plaintiffs’ law firms with profit-motivated incentives seeking to exploit an area of the law that leans in their favor. In a hearing before the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee, former Illinois Revenue Director Brian Hamer described the Illinois cases as being brought by a financially motivated third party adept at manipulating the qui tam process to victimize businesses that at most made an inadvertent mistake. At that hearing, several witnesses described being forced into settlements for amounts far exceeding any tax owed because the costs of litigation are so high. Mark Dyckman, the former General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Revenue, has said that “the cases have clearly interfered with the administration and enforcement of tax law and may have even ultimately cost the state money, though it’s impossible to quantify how much.” A 2007 study by Columbia Law Review concluded that 73 percent of qui tam actions are frivolous.

Why does FCA expansion to taxes lead to such rampant abuse? The treble damages financial incentive encourages profit-motivated bounty hunters to develop theories of liability not established or approved by the agency responsible for tax administration. In Illinois alone, the number of claims by one filer is in the thousands. Other problematic provisions in the California proposal that would tilt the playing field are a separate statute of limitations, a lenient burden of proof and use of sealed complaints, and extremely punitive damages (actual damages times three, plus $5,500 or more civil penalty for each alleged violation). The private attorneys deputized to act as tax enforcers get a percentage of the payment.

Supporters point to “tax gap” estimates of uncollected tax revenue and claim this bill will bring in billions in tax revenues. However, the vast majority of the “tax gap” consists not of missing corporate tax payments, but individual income taxes subject to little or no information reporting, with the Treasury Department particularly [...]

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False Claims Bill Advances in California – Taxpayers Beware!

California’s bill to authorize tax-based false claims actions—allowing private, profit-motivated parties to bring punitive civil enforcement lawsuits—cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 11 in a party-line vote. The bill, AB 2570, is sponsored by the committee’s chair, Assemblymember Mark Stone (D), and has strong backing from Attorney General Xavier Becerra. It now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Proponents claim the bill only affects “tax cheats” but under similar laws in Illinois and New York, very few cases involve internal whistleblowers, actual fraud or reckless disregard of clear law. Instead, they typically involve inadvertent errors or good-faith interpretations of murky tax law. Moreover, while there often is an erroneous assumption that most tax false claims actions are brought by “by-the-books” whistleblowers acting in the interest of the taxing jurisdiction, claims in the tax realm are primarily developed and driven by a cottage industry of plaintiffs’ law firms with profit-motivated incentives seeking to exploit an area of the law that leans in their favor.

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Alert: California False Claims Expansion Bill Preparing to Advance

The revived False Claims expansion bill in California, A.B. 2570, is on the agenda to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 11 at 10:00 am PDT. The proposal would authorize tax-based false claims actions, allowing private, profit-motivated parties to bring punitive civil enforcement lawsuits—an abusive practice that is prohibited under current law consistent with the vast majority of other states with similar laws. A nearly identical bill sputtered out last summer but has now been revived, as our colleagues covered in February:

AB 2570 is replete with problematic provisions, including: (1) the imposition of a separate statute of limitations that will arguably trump any shorter limitations periods imposed by the Revenue & Taxation Code (See Cal. Gov’t Code § 12654(a) which permits claims under the CFCA to be pursued for up to 10 years after the date the violation was committed, compared to standard three or four years for tax audits); (2) a more lenient burden of proof for elements of an alleged violation; and, (3) extremely punitive damages—violators are subject to treble damages (i.e., three times the amount of the underreported tax, interest and penalties), an additional civil penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 for each violation, plus the costs of the civil action to recover the damages and penalties including attorney’s fees.

Few of these cases will involve internal whistleblowers, actual fraud, or reckless disregard of clear law. Instead, the cases in Illinois (a state that has adopted false claims expansion to tax) usually involve inadvertent errors or good-faith interpretations of murky tax law. With the party bringing the case able to keep up to 50% of the proceeds, the only winners in the proposal is the cottage industry of money hungry plaintiffs’ attorneys that will descend and harass good-faith taxpayers in an effort to pad their own pockets.




COVID-19 State Tax Relief for Illinois | Quarterly Estimated State Income Tax Payments Still Due 4/15/20

Illinois has announced the following tax-related relief measures related to COVID-19. Taxpayers who file quarterly estimated returns should note that unlike the federal government, Illinois has not extended the April 15, 2020 due date for first quarter estimated tax payments.

I. Extension of Filing and Payment Deadlines for Illinois Income Tax Returns

The 2019 income tax filing and payment deadlines for all taxpayers who file and pay their Illinois income taxes on April 15, 2020, have been automatically extended until July 15, 2020. This relief applies to all individual returns, trusts and corporations. The relief is automatic; taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) to qualify. For additional details, click here for the guidance issued by IDOR on March 25, 2020.

Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of July 16, 2020.

Even though the deadline has been extended, IDOR has encouraged taxpayers expecting a refund to file as soon as they can. Taxpayers who have already filed a return can check the status of their return by using the Where’s My Refund? link located at mytax.illinois.gov

Note: This extension does NOT impact the first and second installments of estimated payments of 2020 taxes that are due on April 15 and June 15. Although the federal government has extended the date for the payment of first quarter estimated tax payments to June 15, 2020, Illinois has not followed this practice. Illinois taxpayers are still required to estimate their tax liability for 2020 and make four equal installment payments to IDOR, starting on April 15, 2020.

II. Sales Tax Deferral for Bars and Restaurants

To help alleviate some of the unprecedented challenges facing bars and restaurants due to COVID-19, Governor Pritzker has directed IDOR to defer sales tax payments for eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year. Qualifying businesses are still required to timely file their sales tax returns, but will not be charged penalties or interest on their late payments due in March, April or May 2020. The IDOR estimates this will give relief to nearly 80% of the bars and restaurants in Illinois.

Taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments, starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin available at tax.illinois.gov.

III. Small Business Loans

The US Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 Illinois counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans here.




Illinois Amnesty Programs Now Underway

As previously announced, the Illinois Department of Revenue has begun a new amnesty program, running October 1 through November 15, 2019. All taxes paid to the Illinois Department of Revenue for taxable periods ending after June 30, 2011, and prior to July 1, 2018, are eligible for amnesty with relief from penalties and interest. Unlike prior Illinois programs, taxpayers who do not participate in amnesty will not be subject to double interest or penalty charges on subsequent audit assessments for taxes that were eligible for amnesty. A link to the Illinois Department of Revenue forms for its amnesty program is attached here.

The Illinois Secretary of State also offers an amnesty program running from October 1 through November 15, 2019, for corporate franchise taxes related to periods ending after March 15, 2008, and on or before June 30, 2019. In light of the phase-out of the corporate franchise tax by January 1, 2024 (enacted by Public Act 101-9), participants in the amnesty program should proceed with extreme caution. For more information, the Secretary of State has published a Fact Sheet and form of Petition on its website: https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/business_services/home.html.




Illinois Fiscal Year 2020 Income and Franchise Tax Changes

The Illinois General Assembly enacted a number of new tax measures in a flurry of activity at the end of its legislative session. Some of the changes are taxpayer friendly and others are not. Unlike the no-deal chaos of past years, all of the measures have been or are expected to be signed by the state’s new Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker.

This blog post summarizes the income-tax and franchise tax-related changes approved by the General Assembly. Subsequent posts will address sales/use, property and other tax changes. (more…)




Illinois Moves One Step Closer to Enacting Captive Reform

On November 14, the second day of its 2018 veto session, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously to override Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1737 (Bill). As we have previously reported, the Bill is a proposed new law that would reform the Illinois Insurance Code’s regulatory framework for captive insurance companies and significantly drop the state’s current premium tax rate on self-procured insurance. The Illinois General Assembly passed the Bill on May 31, 2018, with bi-partisan support. The Illinois Department of Insurance, key industry groups and several large Illinois-based taxpayers also support the legislation.

If it becomes law, the Bill would create a much more favorable regulatory framework for Illinois captives, following the lead of multiple jurisdictions, including Vermont, Hawaii, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. (more…)




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