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Resistance is not Always Futile: New Decision in Ongoing Delaware Unclaimed Property Audit Litigation

On August 9, 2017, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Third Circuit), overruling the US District Court for the District of Delaware (District Court), allowed a claim by a holder seeking to prevent an unclaimed property audit by Delaware on due process grounds to proceed. See Plains All American Pipeline L.P. v. Cook et al., No. 16-3631 (3d Cir. Aug. 9, 2017).  The procedural due process claim challenges Delaware’s use of auditors that have a stake in the assessment. Consistent with the District Court decision, the Third Circuit held that challenges to Delaware’s estimation methodology were ruled not ripe. The case has been remanded to the District Court for further proceedings. Background The holder, Plains All American Pipeline L.P. (Plains) brought a lawsuit against Delaware officials including the Secretary of Finance, the State Escheator, the State unclaimed property Audit Manager and third party auditor, Kelmar Associates, LLC (Kelmar)....

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Beverage Tax Wars Continue as Parties Head Back to Court for a Preliminary Injunction Hearing on the Cook County, Illinois Tax

A legal challenge to Cook County Illinois Sweetened Beverage Tax (Tax) heads back to circuit court today for a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction. On June 30, Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak issued a temporary restraining order (TRO), halting Cook County, Illinois’ imposition of the Tax, which was to take effect on July 1. Judge Kubasiak found that the “Plaintiffs have persuaded the Court that a fair question exists as to the constitutionality” of the Tax. Earlier this week, the plaintiff group, which includes the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and a group of retail food markets, successfully opposed the county’s emergency appeal of the TRO. In a ruling issued on Monday, July 10, the Illinois appellate court declined to set aside the TRO. While the fight is far from over, the Illinois rulings are a positive development for retailers, who have not succeeded to date in their efforts to defeat the Philadelphia sweetened beverage...

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Pennsylvania General Assembly Passes Revenue Package with Significant Digital Tax Expansion

Yesterday, a legislative conference committee was appointed to approve an already agreed-upon $1.3 billion revenue package, which was immediately approved by both the House (116-75) and Senate (28-22) and sent to Governor Wolf for approval.  The governor subsequently issued a press release confirming that he “will sign this revenue package.”  A copy of the conference committee report (in full) that passed is available here. The final revenue package includes (among a host of other revenue raising changes) a new tax on digital content and services, as described in more detail below.  Specifically, the expansion captures most (if not all) digital goods within the sales and use tax imposition by defining them as tangible personal property.  A number of digital services are also captured in the broadly defined language.  The Approved Language The language passed by the General Assembly today (as contained on pages 8-9 of the report) specifically provides that...

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Unclaimed Property Litigation Update – Spring 2016

Litigation over unclaimed property rules and obligations continues to accelerate. The first quarter of 2016 brought developments in several cases, including a much-watched contest over merchandise credits and a new battle between the states over which state gets the money. California Merchandise Credits Not Subject to Remittance as Unclaimed Property; Implicit Application of Derivative Rights Doctrine Prevails On March 4, 2016, a California superior court held in Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. v John Chiang that unredeemed merchandise return certificates (certificates) issued by Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B) to tis California customers are exempt “gift certificates” under the California Unclaimed Property Law—and not “intangible personal property” under the California catch-all provision. Like many retail stores, BB&B provides the certificates as credits to customers who return items without a receipt. While the certificates may be redeemed for...

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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...

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Pennsylvania Unwraps Final Market-Sourcing Guidance

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (the Department) recently finalized its Information Notice on sourcing of services for purposes of determining the appropriate net income and capital franchise tax apportionment factors.  The guidance also addresses the Department’s views on the sourcing of intangibles under the income producing activity test.  Since Pennsylvania is not a member of the Multistate Tax Compact, it is no surprise that the Department did not wait for the Multistate Tax Commission to complete its model market sourcing regulation before it issued its guidance. Under the Pennsylvania statute (72 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7401(3)(2)(a)(16.1)(C)), for tax years beginning after December 31, 2013, receipts from services are to be sourced according to the location where the service is delivered.  If the service is delivered both to a location in and outside Pennsylvania, the sale is sourced to Pennsylvania based upon the percentage of the total value of...

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Favorable Ruling: HMOs Not Taxable Under New York City General Corporation Tax

A New York City Tax Appeals Tribunal Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) recently ruled in favor of Aetna, Inc. (Aetna) on the question of whether a health maintenance organization (HMO) was “doing an insurance business” in New York State, thereby exempting it from the New York City General Corporation Tax (GCT).  In Matter of Aetna, Inc., the ALJ determined that the HMO at issue was “doing an insurance business” in New York because insurance risk was present in contracts covering the members of the HMO, the members of the HMO spread the risk of loss due to unforeseen medical expenses to the HMO and the HMO was subject to significant regulation under New York State Insurance Law and Public Health Law.  Aetna Health, Inc. (Health), a subsidiary of Aetna, qualified as an HMO under Article 44 of the New York State Public Health Law.  Though the New York City Department of Finance (Department) argued that HMOs were subject to the GCT because they do not conduct...

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Was It Wirth It? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Sets a Low Bar for Minimum Contacts

In Wirth v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that Pennsylvania personal income tax applied to non-resident limited partners whose only connection with the state was the ownership of a small interest in a partnership that owned Pennsylvania property.  This ruling has weakened the effectiveness of the Due Process Clause as a defense against Pennsylvania taxation. In 1984 and 1985, the non-resident appellants purchased interests in a Connecticut limited partnership organized solely for the purchase and management of a skyscraper located in Pittsburgh.  The appellants each owned between one-quarter of a unit to one unit of the partnership.  One unit equated to a 0.151281 percent interest.  The opinion does not indicate whether any of the numerous non-appellant partners owned significantly larger shares.  Further, all of the appellants were only passive investors and did not take “an active role in managing the [p]roperty.”  After 20 years of...

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Pennsylvania Issues Draft Guidance on Market-Based Sourcing of Services

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue (PA Department) released a draft Information Notice containing guidance on how to source services under Pennsylvania’s new market-based sourcing scheme for tax years beginning after December 31, 2013. 72 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7401(3)(2)(a)(16.1)(C).  By statute, service receipts are sourced to Pennsylvania if the service is delivered to a location in Pennsylvania.  If the service is delivered both to a location in and outside Pennsylvania, the sale is sourced to Pennsylvania based upon the portion of the total value of the service delivered to a location in Pennsylvania.  In the case of customers who are individuals (other than sole proprietors), if the state or states of delivery cannot be determined for the customer, the service is deemed to be delivered at the customer’s billing address.  In the case of other customers (e.g., corporations), if the state or states of delivery cannot be determined for the customer, the...

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