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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...

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California Bill Would Make Taxpayer Information Available to the Public (Seriously!)

A concerning bill is pending in the California Senate. SB-972 would require the California State Controller’s Office (the Controller) to make taxpayer information publicly available. The bill would require that the Controller post on its website a list of all taxpayers subject to the California corporation tax with gross receipts of $5 billion or more and information about each taxpayer, including the tax liability of taxpayer and the amount of tax credits claimed by the taxpayer in the previous calendar year. We are hearing that the California Senate is likely to pass the bill. If the bill does pass in the Senate, it will head to the Assembly. This bill is surprising (and alarming) because the usual policy of states and tax departments is to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information. In fact, most states have statutory provisions ensuring that taxpayer information obtained through tax filings and audits is kept confidential, and disclosure is...

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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...

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State Tax Incentives, Clawbacks and COVID-19

Through various state and local tax incentives, many businesses have committed to grow their employee count or make substantial capital expenditures. Not surprisingly, companies may fall short on delivering those objectives in the short run. Long-terms plans may also need to change drastically. Companies should carefully consider the terms of their agreements with states to identify whether: Employment targets will be met; Investment targets will be met; and Clawbacks or other damages are a possibility. If clawbacks are possible, force majeure provisions in incentives agreements should provide protection. When agreements do not specifically contain a force majeure provision, businesses and governments should work together to renegotiate or amend those agreements in a way that protects local business’ long-term viability in a region.

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Déjà Vu – Marketplace Model Debate May Resume Again

The debate over state marketplace laws may resume again, after the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) announced it has set up a committee to study whether to draft a uniform state law on online sales tax collection, focusing on marketplaces. The study committee is chaired by Utah Sen. Lyle Hillyard. The lead staffer (“reporter”) will be Professor Adam Thimmesch of the University of Nebraska College of Law. The members of the committee are listed here and information to sign up to be notified of developments is available here. While ULC was successful at adopting the Uniform Commercial Code in the 1950s, its approach has proven less successful in recent state tax matters. ULC halted an effort to revise the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act (UDITPA) in 2010 after state legislators expressed strong opposition. Its work on the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) has not been widely adopted and failed to account for many industry issues. The...

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The Digital Advertising Tax Trend Continues: New York Introduces Another Bill

On April 13, S. 8166 was introduced in the New York Senate, which would expand the sales tax base to include receipts from the sale of digital advertising services. The bill would dedicate the revenue raised to student loan relief. As introduced, “digital advertising services” would be broadly defined as “advertisement services on a digital interface, including advertisements in the form of banner advertising, search engine advertising, interstitial advertising, and other comparable advertising services which markets or promotes a particular good, service, or political candidate or message.” (With the exception of the added last clause, the definition of “digital advertising services” is identical to the definition in the digital advertising tax legislation recently passed by the Maryland General Assembly. The definition differs from the previously introduced New York digital ads tax (S. 8056) in that it is not limited only to targeted advertising.) “Digital...

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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. Mississippi’s Department of Revenue responded to us very quickly, agreeing with us on that point: “Mississippi will not use any changes in the employees temporary work locations due to the pandemic to impose nexus or alter apportionment of income for any business while temporary telework requirements are in place.” New Jersey’s Division of Taxation also quickly issued a similar statement: “In the event that employees are working from home solely as a result of closures due to the coronavirus outbreak and/or the employer’s social distancing policy, no threshold will be considered to have...

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Iowa Responds to McDermott’s Call to Drop Unnecessary or Dangerous Tax Administration Requirements

In late March, we wrote an open letter to state tax administrators requesting that they take steps to relieve undue tax administration burdens in the wake of the COVID-19 situation. We gave five suggestions, including postponing deadlines for tax filing and payment, waiving requirements to use hard-copy documents or checks, suspending accrual of interest on assessments during mandatory closures, directing revenue agencies to resolve outstanding controversies, and disregarding remote work for tax purposes. Kraig Paulsen, Director of Iowa’s Department of Revenue, quickly responded, clarifying actions they have already taken and are now taking: Extending filing and payment deadlines for income, franchise, and moneys and credits taxes to July 31, 2020 Suspending imposition of penalty and interest for property tax payments through April 30 Creating an application for taxpayers to request deferral of sales tax and income tax withholding filings and payments,...

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What Can You Do About Your California Property Tax Payment – COVID -19’s Impact on California Property Tax Deadlines and Planning Considerations

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain California taxing officials have acted swiftly to provide state taxpayers with some much needed relief. On March 13, for example, the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) extended the corporate and personal income filing and payment tax deadlines to June 15, and then again on March 18, FTB further postponed the deadlines to July 15. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the California Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) also has acted to implement measures aimed at supporting taxpayers amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Office of Tax Appeals granted an automatic 60-calendar-day extension of the deadline for appeals that have a briefing or other deadline that falls between March 1, 2020 and May 18, 2020. In addition, CDTFA published a statement on its website indicating that sales tax relief including return and payment extensions and penalty and interest waivers may be available to taxpayers upon request....

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The Nexus Implications of Teleworking

Over the past several weeks, state and local governments have issued a slew of “stay-in-place” or “shelter-in-place” orders mandating the closure of all “nonessential businesses” and requiring all persons to self-isolate. For most companies, this means that most, if not all, of their employees are required to work remotely. While telework has become a great way for businesses to protect their employees from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it may also be exposing the businesses to taxation in states where they may not otherwise have sufficient nexus. This is because employees may be working remotely from states where a business does not otherwise have a presence. Under the traditional nexus rules, the employees’ work in these states would likely be sufficient to create nexus such that the states can tax the business. This seems unfair given that the federal, state and local governments are strongly encouraging individuals not to travel and to work remotely....

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