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New York Issues Much-Anticipated Guidance on Taxation of Telecommuting Employees

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home mandates, New York employers and their nonresident employees have been waiting for the Department of Taxation and Finance to address the million-dollar question: Do wages earned by a nonresident who typically works in a New York office but is now telecommuting from another state due to the pandemic constitute New York source income? New York has historical guidance concerning the application of its “convenience of the employee/necessity of the employer” test, the test used to determine whether a telecommuting nonresident’s wages are sourced to New York, but until recently the Department had been silent as to whether or how such rule applied under the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As many expected, in a recent update to the residency FAQs, the Department clearly stated its position that a nonresident whose primary office is in New York State is considered to be working in New York State on days that he or she telecommutes from outside the state during the pandemic unless the employer has “established a bona fide employer office at [the] telecommuting location.” The Department adopted the “bona fide employer office” test in 2006 as its way of applying the convenience of the employee rule to employees that work from home. The bona fide employer office test is a factor-based test and, for the most part, a home office will not qualify as a bona fide employer office unless the employer takes specific actions to establish the location as a company office. (See: TSB-M-06(5)I, New York Tax Treatment of Nonresidents and Part-Year Residents Application of the Convenience of the Employer Test to Telecommuters and Others.) As is apparent in the FAQ, the Department is mechanically applying this test to employees working from home as a result of the pandemic and is not providing any special rules or accommodations for employees that have been required or encouraged by New York State and local governments to telecommute.

Interestingly, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue took a similar approach to New York’s by promulgating a regulation requiring nonresidents that typically work in Massachusetts but are telecommuting from outside the state to pay tax on their wages. On October 19, 2020, New Hampshire filed a Motion for Leave to File Bill of Complaint with the United States Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Massachusetts’ regulation. We understand that New Jersey is considering joining New Hampshire in this lawsuit based on New York’s recent guidance, which would require many New Jersey residents to pay New York income tax even though they are no longer working in New York. The US Supreme Court has twice declined to rule on the constitutionality of the convenience-of-the-employee test, so stay tuned on this important development.




Finishing SALT: August Wrap-Up & Looking at September

A Grain of SALT: September State Focus – New Hampshire

With the road paved in the US Supreme Court’s now famous South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. decision, many states have begun releasing remote-seller sales tax collection guidance. Interestingly, the state of New Hampshire has joined the fray as well even though it does not impose a state sales tax. New Hampshire’s efforts are specifically directed at preventing out-of-state taxing authorities from imposing remote-seller sales tax collection obligations on New Hampshire businesses located solely in the state. These efforts come via a bill sponsored by Rep. Jess Edwards (R) and Rep. Kevin Scully (R) and planned to be introduced in early 2019. The bill would make sales and use tax collection obligations on New Hampshire remote-sellers by out-of-state jurisdictions unlawful. According to Rep. Edwards, this bill is being filed because “we do not recognize any other taxing jurisdiction other than New Hampshire to impose a tax obligation on our businesses.”

Top Hits You May Have Missed

Reform Pending for Illinois Captive Insurance Framework

House Judiciary Committee to Consider Wayfair Decision Impact

More States Respond to Federal Tax Reform

Looking Forward to September

September 12, 2018: Diann Smith will be presenting “Post-Wayfair” at the Tax in the City® event in Seattle, WA. You can still register! Just click here.

September 19, 2018: Jane May is presenting “Anatomy of a Whistleblower Case” at the inaugural Dallas Tax in the City® event in Dallas, TX. You can still register! Just click here.

September 19, 2018: Alysse McLoughlin is presenting “US Supreme Court’s Decision on Wayfair” at the inaugural Dallas Tax in the City® event in Dallas, TX. You can still register! Just click here.

September 19, 2018:  Steve Kranz and Eric Carstens are speaking at the Tax Executives Institute Seattle Chapter Meeting regarding the South Dakota v. Wayfair Supreme Court decision in Seattle, WA.

September 19, 2018:  Steve Kranz and Katherine Quinn are speaking at the Tax Executives Institute Seattle Chapter Meeting regarding State Tax After (federal tax) Reform and will also cover key captive insurance company developments in Seattle, WA.

September 19, 2018:  Charles Moll is speaking at the Tax Executives Institute Seattle Chapter Meeting regarding California SALT developments in Seattle, WA.

September 20, 2018: Catherine Battin is presenting “So Wayfair Happened—What’s Next?” at the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois’ Annual Conference in Rolling Meadows, IL.

September 20, 2018: Mary Kay Martire is presenting “Audits and Beyond—Tips, Traps, and War Stories” at the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois’ Annual Conference in Rolling Meadows, IL.

September 25, 2018: Peter Faber, Alysse McLoughlin and Mark Yopp are presenting “New Jersey Corporate Business Tax Overhaul: What You Need to Know” and “A Discussion on the States’ Reaction to Wayfair” at the Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) New York Chapter – State and Local Tax Meeting in New York, NY.




Unclaimed Property Gift Card Legislation to Watch

Most states are well off to the races with their 2017 legislative sessions and several states have gift card legislation pending that would impact unclaimed property holders.

Oregon

On January 9, 2017, a bill (SB 113) was introduced in the Senate that would create a new unclaimed property reporting obligation for gift cards, which would apply to gift cards issued or sold after the effective date of the bill.

SB 113 would accomplish this by amending the state consumer protection law to provide that a cardholder may only redeem a gift card from “[t]he person that a gift card identifies as providing goods or services” and such person “shall transfer to the Department of State Lands, in accordance with [the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act], any remaining balance from a gift card that a cardholder has not used within five years after the date of the last transaction that used the gift card for a purchase.” Keeping consistent with the changes above, the bill would also amend the definition of “gift card” to strike the current reference to “issuer” and replace it with the “person identified in the record as providing goods or services in exchange for displaying or surrendering the record.” Finally, the bill provides that “[a] transfer under this paragraph renders the promise to provide goods or services of which the gift card is evidence void and the cardholder may not redeem the remaining balance on the gift card for cash, goods or services after the date of the transfer.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on General Government and Accountability, where the sponsor (Senator Chuck Riley) sits as chair.

Practice Note

The prospect of gift cards becoming reportable prospectively in Oregon is troubling in itself, but the bill would go a step further and redefine who is the issuer in the gift card context by specifying that the retailer or other entity identified on the record as providing goods or services is the issuer and has the remittance obligation—not a third-party issuer (which many retailers currently use and most have historically understood to have the reporting obligation for unredeemed gift cards in states without an exemption). The bill leaves room for the Department of State Lands to establish an expedited process for transferring gift card balances by regulation, but it would still be the onus of the retailer to provide the unredeemed balances and would diminish the benefit of having a third-party gift card processor under Oregon law.

New Hampshire

On January 5, 2017, a bill (HB 473) was introduced in the House that would revise the definition of “gift certificate” by (1) removing the existing requirement that the promise be written; and (2) increasing the face value based exemption from $100 to $250. The bill also would increase the face value of a gift certificate that may have an expiration date under the state consumer protection law to $250. As introduced, these changes would take effect January 1, 2018.

HB 473 [...]

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U.S. Supreme Court’s Wynne Decision Calls New York’s Statutory Resident Scheme into Question

On May 18, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne. In short, the Court, in a five-to-four decision written by Justice Alito, handed the taxpayer a victory by holding that the county income tax portion of Maryland’s personal income tax scheme violated the dormant U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Specifically, the Court concluded that the county income tax imposed under Maryland law failed the internal consistency test under the dormant Commerce Clause, because it is imposed on both residents and non-residents with Maryland residents not getting a credit against that Maryland local tax for income taxes paid to other jurisdictions (residents are given a credit against the Maryland state income tax for taxes paid to other jurisdictions).

The Supreme Court emphatically held (as emphatically as the Court can be in a five-to-four decision) that the dormant Commerce Clause’s internal consistency test applies to individual income taxes. The Court’s holding does create a perilous situation for any state or local income taxes that either do not provide a credit for taxes paid to other jurisdictions or limit the scope of such a credit in some way.

The internal consistency test—one of the methods used by the Supreme Court to examine whether a state tax imposition discriminates against interstate commerce in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause—starts by assuming that every state has the same tax structure as the state with the tax at issue. If that hypothetical scenario places interstate commerce at a disadvantage compared to intrastate commerce by imposing a risk of multiple taxation, then the tax fails the internal consistency test and is unconstitutional.

Although the Wynne decision does not address the validity of other taxes beyond the Maryland county personal income tax, the decision does create significant doubt as to the validity of certain other state and local taxes such as the New York State personal income tax in the way it defines “resident.” New York State imposes its income tax on residents on all of their income and on non-residents on their income earned in the state; this is similar to the Maryland county income tax at issue in Wynne.

“Resident” is defined as either a domiciliary of New York or a person who is not a domiciliary of New York but has a permanent place of abode in New York and spends more than 183 days in New York during the tax year. N.Y. Tax Law § 605. (New York City has a comparable definition of resident.) N.Y.C. Administrative Code § 11-1705. Thus a person may be taxed as a statutory resident solely because they maintain living quarters in the state and spend more than 183 days in the state, even if those days have absolutely nothing to do with the living quarters; this category of non-domiciliary resident is commonly referred to a “statutory resident.” As such, under New York’s tax scheme, a person can be a resident of two states—where domiciled and where a statutory resident—and thus [...]

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