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Tax That DC?!?! FCA Suit on Residency Brings Business Intelligence Company into the Crosshairs

For the first time since the enactment of the False Claims Amendment Act of 2020, the DC Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office has used its new tax enforcement powers to pursue an alleged personal income tax deficiency. This development brings to the forefront a long-simmering constitutional problem with DC’s statutory residency law and offers a stern warning to businesses that assist key employees and executives with their personal tax obligations.

The press rapidly and widely reported on DC’s lawsuit against MicroStrategy Co-Founder, Executive Chairman and former CEO Michael Saylor for alleged evasion of D.C. personal income taxes, which was made public this week. The case alleges that Saylor wrongly claimed that he was a resident of Virginia or Florida (rather than DC) since at least 2012.

The case was originally brought under seal by a relator under DC’s False Claims Act in April 2021—less than one month after the False Claims Amendment Act took effect. Using its new tax authority, the DC AG’s Office filed a complaint last week to intervene (taking over the case going forward). Interestingly, when the DC AG’s Office took over the case, it added MicroStrategy as a defendant under the theory that the company conspired to help Saylor evade DC personal income taxes. Under DC’s False Claims Act, both Saylor and MicroStrategy could be liable for treble damages if a court rules in favor of the DC AG’s Office.

ISSUES WITH DC’S “STATUTORY RESIDENCY” TEST

While determining where an individual is a resident for state and local tax purposes generally requires a fact-intensive analysis, the case against Saylor also implicates DC’s unique (and likely unconstitutional) statutory residency standard. DC’s statute is fundamentally different than statutory residency standards in other states. Most states only tax individuals having their domicile in the state as residents, while some states also have a “statutory residency” test to classify individuals as taxable residents. In most states, a person is classified as a statutory resident if they (1) maintain a permanent place of abode in the jurisdiction and (2) spend more than a specific number of days (typically 183 days) in the jurisdiction.

DC truncates this standard and classifies someone as a statutory resident if they merely maintain a personal place of abode in DC for more than 183 days. Thus, no amount of actual presence of the individual in DC is required. The problem created by this one-of-a-kind standard should be obvious: someone can (as many high-net-worth individuals often do) maintain a residence for 183 days in more than one jurisdiction. Thus, the plain language of the statute would violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution because it runs afoul of the internal consistency test. Under this test, a statute is unconstitutional if under a hypothetical situation in which every jurisdiction has the same law as the one being challenged, more than 100% of the tax base would be subject to tax. Here, if every state had a statutory residency test applicable to anyone who had a [...]

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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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“Voluntary” in Name Only? New Jersey Introduces Transfer Pricing Initiative

The New Jersey Division of Taxation (Division) has announced a “voluntary” transfer pricing initiative beginning June 15, 2022, and continuing through March 2, 2023. According to the Division, the initiative is targeted toward companies that have intercompany transactions that would be subject to transfer pricing adjustment.

The initiative is broadly available to taxpayers with related party intercompany pricing, even if those taxpayers are currently under audit or have a case pending before the Division’s Conference and Appeals Branch. However, the initiative does not apply to matters in litigation.

Taxpayers must agree in writing to participate in the initiative by September 15, 2022, and comply with Division deadlines thereafter (including by providing “all required transfer pricing, tax, and financial information and documentation” to the Division by October 31, 2022). As part of any agreement reached with a taxpayer, the Division will agree to waive all applicable penalties and all rights to assess any additional tax, interest or penalties except for adjustments relating to federal corrections.

Notably, the Division is warning taxpayers that do not reach an agreement through the initiative that in the future it will: (1) “assess all applicable penalties;” (2) “not waive any penalties;” and (3) audit according to the Division’s “regular audit schedule” without agreeing “to a methodology or settlement for any unaudited open tax years.”

Evidently, the Division has hired Dr. Ednaldo Silva, Founder & Director of RoyaltyStat, to assist with the initiative. Sources familiar with the initiative report that the Division will consider prospective-only settlement agreements under the initiative, under the right circumstances.




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.




Massachusetts Department of Revenue Stops Applying COVID-19 Telecommuting Policy, Returns to Location of Work Performed

In a recently issued guidance, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue indicated that the emergency telecommuting rules it put in place during the Massachusetts COVID-19 state of emergency would cease to be in effect as of September 13, 2021. Under the telecommuting rules, which were effective beginning March 10, 2020, wages paid to a non-resident employee who worked remotely (i.e., working from home or a location other than their usual work location) because of the COVID-19 pandemic were sourced based on where the employee worked prior to the state of emergency. Effective September 13, 2021, wages will generally be sourced based on where the employee’s work is actually performed.




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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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.




Indiana Tax Court Upholds Pharmacy Benefit Management Costs of Performance Approach

The Indiana Tax Court held that a “pharmacy benefit management company” sold services as opposed to tangible personal property for tax years 2011 through 2013. The company’s receipts were properly sourced as revenue from services under the income producing activity/costs of performance rule, which in this case meant that all receipts were sourced outside of Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Revenue (Department) argued that the pharmacy benefit management company’s “receipts from its sale of prescription drugs should have been sourced to Indiana as required for sales of tangible personal property under Indiana Code” because the company’s “primary ‘revenue stream’ was attributable to buying, selling, and delivering prescription drugs in transactions which occurred within [Indiana].”

The court disagreed with the Department, finding “[the pharmacy benefit management company’s] income was derived from providing pharmacy benefit management services and not from selling prescription drugs during the years at issue.” The court looked to the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Form 10-K filing, observing “[n]one of the emphasized words [in the Form] describe a sale of goods, but instead, describe services. Indeed, nowhere in the designated portion of [the company’s] Form 10-K does the text state that the [company’s] revenue is from the sale of prescription drugs, focusing on facilitating delivery as its discrete service, not as a function of selling a good” (emphasis in the original). On May 1, 2019, Indiana switched from its historical cost of performance sourcing methodology to a market-based sourcing for services, retroactive to January 1, 2019.




US Treasury Issues Guidance on the ARPA Claw-Back Provision

Earlier this week, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) issued formal guidance regarding the administration of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) claw-back provision. The guidance (Interim Final Rule) provides that the claw-back provision is triggered when there is a reduction in net tax revenue caused by changes in law, regulation or interpretation, and the state cannot identify sufficient funds from sources other than federal relief funds to offset the reduction in net tax revenue. The Interim Final Rule recognizes three sources of funds that may offset a net tax revenue reduction other than federal relief funds—organic growth, increases in revenue (e.g., a tax rate increase) and certain spending cuts (i.e., cuts that are not in an area where the recipient government has spent federal relief funds). According to the Treasury, this framework recognizes that money is fungible and “prevents efforts to use Fiscal Recovery Funds to indirectly offset reductions in net tax revenue.”

The Interim Final Rule also provides guidance on what is considered a change in law, regulation or interpretation that could trigger the claw-back (called covered changes), but that point remains somewhat ambiguous. The Rule provides that:

The offset provision is triggered by a reduction in net tax revenue resulting from ‘a change in law, regulation, or administrative interpretation.’ A covered change includes any final legislative or regulatory action, a new or changed administrative interpretation, and the phase-in or taking effect of any statute or rule where the phase-in or taking effect was not prescribed prior to the start of the covered period. [The covered period is March 3, 2021 through December 31, 2024.] Changed administrative interpretations would not include corrections to replace prior inaccurate interpretations; such corrections would instead be treated as changes implementing legislation enacted or regulations issued prior to the covered period; the operative change in those circumstances is the underlying legislation or regulation that occurred prior to the covered period. Moreover, only the changes within the control of the State or territory are considered covered changes. Covered changes do not include a change in rate that is triggered automatically and based on statutory or regulatory criteria in effect prior to the covered period. For example, a state law that sets its earned income tax credit (EITC) at a fixed percentage of the Federal EITC will see its EITC payments automatically increase—and thus its tax revenue reduced—because of the Federal government’s expansion of the EITC in the ARPA. This would not be considered a covered change. In addition, the offset provision applies only to actions for which the change in policy occurs during the covered period; it excludes regulations or other actions that implement a change or law substantively enacted prior to March 3, 2021. Finally, Treasury has determined and previously announced that income tax changes—even those made during the covered period—that simply conform with recent changes in Federal law (including those to conform to recent changes in Federal taxation of unemployment insurance benefits and taxation of loan [...]

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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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