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BREAKING NEWS: New York Considers 5% Gross Receipts Tax on Almost Every Corporation

On January 21, A. 9112 was introduced in the New York Assembly. An identical Senate companion bill, S. 6102, has been referred to the Senate Budget & Revenues Committee after being introduced in May 2019. The bills would impose an additional 5% tax on the gross income of “every corporation which derives income from the data individuals of this state share with such corporations.” The bills do not provide further detail or limitation on the scope of the proposed new imposition language.

The bills would also establish a six-member Data Fund Board, to invest the tax revenue collected and distribute net earnings “to each taxpayer of the state” in a manner determined by the Board. If enacted without amendment, the bills would take effect 180 days after being signed into law.

As written, the proposed New York tax would unconstitutionally apply to all income worldwide earned by a company deriving income from data from New Yorkers. A state tax on a multistate business must “be fairly apportioned to reflect the business conducted in the State.”

The tax as written is so broad it would apply to essentially every business. Every business collects data and uses it to market or complete a sale, and any corporation with data-derived income from New York customers would be subject to the new tax on their total revenue. “Data” is a broad term. If a company collects zip codes or phone numbers at checkout, asks for email address to join a mailing list, counts customers coming in or out of the store, collects website click or open data, or asks for information from customers, such as their size or shipping address, before making a sale, it apparently would be subject to this tax. For many such businesses, a gross receipts tax at a 5% rate would wipe out all profits, equivalent to an over 100% corporate income tax. At that point, a tax for engaging in data collection might become so punitive it violates the Due Process Clause. Another obvious due process problem is that the lack of definitions and the broad sweep of this proposal could invalidate it on void for vagueness grounds.

Any meaningful attempts to address these constitutional issues, such as by specifically applying the tax only on big tech companies, would add new problems under the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA). A tax on digital use of data while the non-digital use of data is not similarly taxed would run afoul of PITFA’s ban on tax discrimination against electronic commerce.

First Maryland, then Nebraska, now New York. The repeated introduction of targeted taxes on digital companies early in 2020 seems to be the start of an alarming trend of legally suspect tax proposals that we are keeping a close eye on.




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.




Court Strikes Down New York Opioid Surcharge on Manufacturers and Distributers

On December 19, 2018, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of McDermott’s client, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), the trade association for pharmaceutical distributors. In Healthcare Distribution Alliance v. Zucker, the court granted summary judgment and enjoined enforcement of the New York Opioid Stewardship Act, which imposed a $600 million surcharge on manufacturers and distributors of opioid pharmaceutical products. The first $100 million installment was due on January 1, 2019. (more…)




McDermott Defeats New York False Claims Act Case Alleging Starbucks Failed to Collect and Remit Sales Tax

On April 9, 2018, the New York State Supreme Court granted Starbucks’ motion to dismiss claims that it had failed to collect more than $10 million of sales tax at its New York stores. Lawyers from McDermott’s State and Local Tax (SALT) group and its White Collar and Securities Defense team handled the matter.

A unique feature of New York law is that the attorney general and private qui tam plaintiffs are permitted to bring New York False Claims Act (NYFCA) actions under New York Financial Law for “claims, records, or statements made under the tax law.” Fin. L. 198(4)(a)(i)-(iii). Under federal law and the law of most states, there is no False Claims Act liability for tax issues. But in New York, the attorney general and private plaintiffs can pursue False Claims Act cases for failure to comply with tax law. There have been numerous large settlements and judgments issued against major companies under the NYFCA, including one settlement for $40 million. See A.G. Schneiderman Announces $40 Million Settlement With Investment Management Company for Tax Abuses, Marking Largest Whistleblower Recovery in Office’s History (April 18, 2017). If successful, qui tam plaintiffs can recover a 25 – 30 percent share of the amount recovered, together with costs and attorneys’ fees. Fin. L. § 190(6)(b).

In this case, two private relator plaintiffs alleged that Starbucks failed to collect sales tax on warmed and “to-go” food items over a 10-year period. The relators filed a complaint, under seal, on or about June 11, 2015, with the New York Attorney General (AG). The AG declined to intervene. On June 30, 2017, the relators elected to proceed on their own with the lawsuit and filed a complaint seeking a judgment for at least $10 million in allegedly unpaid sales tax, as well as treble damages, civil penalties and attorneys’ fees. There was no allegation that Starbucks had failed to properly pay New York taxes that it had previously collected and was holding improperly. The relators’ allegations were solely based on their claim that Starbucks had under-collected sales tax from its New York customers.

On behalf of Starbucks, McDermott filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Starbucks properly collects and pays its taxes to the State of New York and that Starbucks has consistently worked cooperatively with auditors from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. McDermott further argued that the relators “survey” of purchases at Starbucks locations and anecdotal conversations with Starbucks employees failed to properly allege that Starbucks violated the tax law or engaged in any fraud.

On November 10, 2017, the court held oral argument. On April 9, 2018, the Honorable James d’Auguste agreed with McDermott’s arguments and dismissed the case. See State of New York ex rel. James A. Hunter & Keenan D. Kmiec v. Starbucks Corporation, No. 101069/15, Dkt No. 40 (Sup Ct. April 9, 2018). The court held that the relators failed to properly allege that Starbucks had knowingly avoided or recklessly disregarded [...]

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More States Respond to Federal Tax Reform

It’s been nearly three months since the federal tax reform bill (commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or “TCJA”) was enacted and states continue to respond to the various provisions of the TCJA. Recently, there have been notable legislative efforts in New York, Idaho, Iowa and Minnesota.

New York

Starting with the release of the Governor’s Budget Bill in January 2018, the 30-day amendments to that Bill on February 15, and the amendments to the Assembly Bill and Senate Bill this month, there has been much action this legislative session concerning the potential response to federal tax reform. The proposed response in the two latest bills—the Assembly Bill (AB 9509) and the Senate Bill (SB 7509)—is discussed below. (more…)




Finishing SALT: March State Focus & February Wrap-Up

A Grain of SALT: March State Focus – New York

On January 19, a New York qui tam complaint was unsealed.  This was unremarkable in and of itself, as there are many qui tam complaints progressing through the courts.  However, what was remarkable was the nature of the suit.  The suit, State of New York ex. rel. Doreen Light v. Myron Melamed, et al., involves a relator alleging that a decedent and his family structured the decedent’s estate to avoid New York personal income and estate taxes.  This is apparently the first estate tax qui tam suit that has been unsealed.  The attorney general declined to intervene in the case.  As per usual, the attorney general declined to comment as to why it did not intervene.

Although an unsealed case where the attorney general declined to intervene is not otherwise remarkable, the case is notable.  It shows that potential relators and their attorneys are looking to expand the tax provisions of the False Claims Act as much as they can.  Even though this case will likely not have an impact on corporate taxpayers, those taxpayers should know that relator’s attorneys are actively looking for cases to bring, and are being creative.  There are no signs, either in the governor’s current proposed budget or otherwise, that the delegation of tax enforcement authority to private citizens is being reconsidered or even restrained.  Taxpayers should be wary.

Top February Hits You May Have Missed

 Connecticut Will Make You Disclose Personal Customer Data!

You’re Invited: COST, Bloomberg Tax and McDermott Will & Emery to Host Post-Oral Argument Roundtable Discussion

Connecticut Responds to the Federal Repatriation Tax

Looking Forward to March

March 6, 2018: Diann Smith will facilitate the “Retail and Hospitality Industry Session” at the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization Annual Conference in Tampa, FL.

March 7, 2018: Diann Smith will present, and Steve Kranz will serve as the judge, at the interactive and entertaining “Mock Trial”, which will provide a deeper look at an audit that resulted in litigation, at the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization Annual Conference in Tampa, FL.

March 9, 2018: Alysse McLoughlin will present “State Impacts of Federal Tax Reform” at the Federal Bar Association’s 2018 Tax Law Conference in Washington DC.

March 13, 2018: Alysse McLoughlin and Peter Faber will present “Sales Tax and Miscellaneous Taxes” at Practising Law Institute’s Nuts and Bolts of State and Local Tax 2018 in New York, NY.

March 13, 2018: Peter Faber will presenting “State and Local Taxation of International Business and Mergers & Acquisitions” at Practising Law Institute’s Advanced State and Local Tax 2018 in New York, NY.

March 15, 2018: Catherine Battin, Mary Kay Martire, Alysse McLoughlin and Diann Smith will present a special CLE/CPE on the State and Local Implications of Tax Reform at Tax in the City® in McDermott’s Chicago office.

March 20, 2018: Alysse McLoughlin is presenting “The Kitchen [...]

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Governor Cuomo’s Amended Budget Bill Would Address the Deemed Repatriation Dividend Provisions

New York is the latest state to address certain state tax implications of the 2017 federal tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day amendments to the Governor’s Budget Bill were released on February 15 and one piece of the amended Bill explicitly addresses the foreign-earnings, deemed federal repatriation provisions in the new section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).

Even before the release of the 30-day amendments, we expected the amount of foreign earnings deemed repatriated and brought into the federal income tax base under IRC § 965 would be considered “other exempt income” under the New York Tax Law and, thus, not subject to tax in New York as long as received from a unitary subsidiary. However, the Governor’s 30-day amendments make it clear that any amount included in the federal tax base under the repatriation transition provisions would be excludable from income, even if such amounts were received from a non-unitary subsidiary. This proposed exclusion for amounts deemed received from non-unitary subsidiaries is an expansion of New York’s usual policy. This expansion, however, would apply only with respect to the deemed repatriation of foreign earnings under IRC § 965.

The 30-day amendments also would make clear the federal deduction permitted under IRC § 965(c) (which facilitates a reduction of the effective federal tax rate on the deemed repatriated foreign earnings) would not be allowed in computing New York taxable income. We expected New York would make this proposed change because disallowing the § 965(c) deduction from New York taxable income would be consistent with excluding the deemed repatriation from taxable income.

Unlike other states, i.e., Connecticut, the Governor’s Bill does not address the amount of expenses attributable to the amount deemed repatriated under IRC § 965 and includable in the New York tax base. The Governor’s Bill would, however, provide that no penalties would be imposed for any failure to make sufficient estimated payments if the short-fall in payments is due to the increase in tax resulting from the inability to deduct such expenses from taxable income.

Please reach out to us with any questions about New York’s proposed treatment of the federal repatriation provisions or other questions about the potential law changes in New York.




Not One but TWO Tax Events Coming Up this Week!

Inside SALT: Significant State Tax Developments and Opportunities

June 8, 2017 – New York, NY

Lawyers in McDermott Will & Emery’s State and Local Tax Group present an informative half-day program. A wide range of topics will be discussed, including:

  • New York developments, including false claims and budget provisions
  • Nexus updates and developments in digital taxation
  • New developments in apportionment, transfer pricing developments and unclaimed property

You can still register! Click here to view more details and register for the event.

Tax in the City®: A Women’s Tax Roundtable

June 8, 2017 – Chicago, IL

McDermott Will & Emery’s Tax in the City® is a discussion and networking group for women in tax that facilitates in-person connections and roundtable study group events around the country.

At this year’s second edition of Tax in the City®, we will host a CLE/CPE discussion focusing on current developments in professional responsibility and ethics, including a presentation focused on ethical issues arising out of our increasing access to connectivity (such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets). This will be followed by a substantive lunch program featuring the following topics:

  • Best Practices for Drafting Tax Provisions in Commercial and Other Contracts
  • Getting Ready for 2018 – Taking Steps to Prepare for Rules that Become Effective 01/01/2018
  • Tax Reform – What Can / Should You Be Doing Now?

To find our more information about Tax in the City® and get involved in future events, please email khazel@mwe.com, jmay@mwe.com or smcgill@mwe.com.




New York State FY 2018 Budget Bill: Sales Tax Highlights

On January 16, Governor Cuomo introduced the 2018 New York State Executive Budget Legislation. The bill proposes a number of changes to the New York State sales tax law. Below is a summary of the highlights.

Sales and Use Tax

  • “Marketplace Providers”

The governor’s bill proposes to impose sales tax registration and collection requirements, traditionally imposed on vendors, on “marketplace providers.” This provision is essentially an effort to obtain sales tax on sales to New York customers that make purchases over the internet from companies that have no physical presence in New York and do not collect sales tax in New York when those companies make sales through online marketplaces. In the governor’s Memorandum of Support of this bill, he affirmatively states that “the bill does not expand the rules concerning sales tax nexus”. Although, as noted below, this claim may not be true.

The bill effectively shifts the sales tax collection burden from the traditional vendor to the marketplace provider. The bill defines marketplace provider as “a person who, pursuant to an agreement with a marketplace seller, facilitates sales of tangible personal property by such marketplace seller or sellers.”

A person “facilitates a sale of tangible personal property” if the person meets both of the following conditions:

(i) such person  provides the  forum  by which the sale takes place, including a shop, store, or booth, an  internet  website,  a catalog,  or  a similar  forum;  and

(ii) such person or an affiliate of such person collects the receipts paid by a customer  to  a marketplace  seller  for  a  sale  of  tangible  personal  property.

The bill caveats that “a person who facilitates sales exclusively by means of the internet is not a marketplace provider for a sales tax quarter when such person can show that it has facilitated less than one hundred million dollars of sales annually for every calendar year after [2015].”

Unlike the definition of the term “vendor” in the current Tax Law, the definition of “marketplace provider” does not contain a doing business or physical presence component. Accordingly, despite the governor’s assertion that the bill does not expand the rules concerning sales tax nexus, this provision may expand the sales tax nexus rules by potentially imposing a sales tax collection obligation on marketplace providers that do not have a physical presence in New York.

In an effort to minimize the number of entities with a collection requirement, the bill provides that if a marketplace seller obtains a certificate of collection from the marketplace provider, it is not required to collect sales tax as a vendor.  The bill caveats that if the marketplace provider and the marketplace seller are affiliated parties, and the marketplace provider fails to collect the tax, the marketplace seller will remain liable for the sales tax.  For such purposes, parties are affiliated if they have as little as five percent of common ownership.

The proposed legislation would not permit marketplace sellers that sell to customers in New York through a [...]

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