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Tax Amnesty Hits the Midwest (and Beyond)

With many state legislatures wrapping up session within the past month or so, there has been a flurry of last-minute tax amnesty legislation passed. Nearly a half-dozen states have authorized upcoming tax amnesty periods. These tax amnesties include a waiver of interest and, in some circumstances, allow taxpayers currently under audit or with an appeal pending to participate. This blog entry highlights the various enactments that have occurred since the authors last covered the upcoming Maryland amnesty program.

Missouri

On April 27, 2015, Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill (HB 384) that creates the first Missouri tax amnesty since 2002. The bill creates a 90-day tax amnesty period scheduled to run from September 1, 2015, to November 30, 2015. The amnesty is limited in scope and applies only to income, sales and use, and corporation franchise taxes. The amnesty allows taxpayers with liabilities accrued before December 31, 2014, to pay in full between September 1, 2015, and November 30, 2015, and be relieved of all penalties and interest associated with the delinquent obligation. Before electing to participate in the amnesty program, taxpayers should be aware that participation will disqualify them from participating in any future Missouri amnesty for the same type of tax. In addition, if a taxpayer fails to comply with Missouri tax law at any time during the eight years following the agreement, the penalties and interest waived under the amnesty will be revoked and become due immediately. Finally, taxpayers who are the subject of civil or criminal state-tax-related investigations, or are currently involved in litigation over the obligation, are not eligible for the amnesty.

According to the fiscal note provided in conjunction with the bill, the state estimates that 340,000 taxpayers will be eligible for the amnesty and that the program will raise $25 million.

Oklahoma

On May 20, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill (HB 2236) creating a two-month amnesty period from September 14, 2015, to November 13, 2015. The bill allows taxpayers that pay delinquent taxes (i.e., taxes due for any tax period ending before January 1, 2015) during the amnesty period to receive a waiver of any associated interest, penalties, fines or collection costs.

Taxes eligible for the amnesty include individual and corporate income taxes, withholding taxes, sales and use taxes, gasoline and diesel taxes, gross production and petroleum excise taxes, banking privilege taxes and mixed beverage taxes. Notably, franchise taxes are not included in this year’s amnesty (they were included in the 2008 Oklahoma amnesty).

Indiana

In May, Governor Mike Pence signed a biennial budget bill (HB 1001) that included a provision authorizing the Department of Revenue (Department) to implement an eight-week tax amnesty program before 2017. While the Department must promulgate emergency regulations that will specify exact dates and procedures, several sources have indicated that the amnesty is expected to occur sometime this fall. The upcoming amnesty will mark the second-ever amnesty offered by Indiana (the first occurred in 2005). Taxpayers that participated in the 2005 program [...]

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U.S. Tax Court Finds Refundable State Credits Result in Taxable Income

The United States Tax Court recently determined that certain refundable tax credits issued by New York in connection with economic development activities (EZ Credits) constituted taxable income to the recipients for federal tax purposes. Maines v. Comm’r, 144 T.C. No. 8 (Mar. 11, 2015). In reaching this determination, the Court noted that the characterization of certain of the EZ Credits as refundable taxes for New York purposes “is not necessarily controlling for federal tax purposes;” instead, the Court looked at the substance of the EZ Credits and determined that the credits were not actually a refund of previously paid state taxes, and, instead, the credits were a taxable accession to wealth since they were “just transfers from New York to the taxpayer—subsidies essentially.” The Court also considered one other refundable tax credit (the QEZE Credit), which was a credit against income tax liability for the amount of real property taxes paid, and determined that, while the amount of QEZE Credits refunded did not constitute a “taxable accession to wealth” as did the EZ Credits, the application of the tax benefit rule mandated that the refundable portion was subject to federal taxable income.

The taxpayers received the EZ Credits from New York for engaging in specific economic development activities in the state through their pass-through business entities. As the Court noted, New York labels the EZ Credits “credits” and treats them as refunds for “overpayments” of state income tax; the taxpayers in Maines received refunds of their state income tax based on their claim for the EZ Credits. Despite New York’s characterization of the EZ Credits, the Commissioner asserted that they were nothing more than cash subsidies, and thus should be treated as taxable income to the taxpayers. On the other hand, the taxpayers argued that New York’s label of the EZ Credits as overpayments was binding for purposes of federal law. The Court, noting President Lincoln’s famous quip that “if New York called a tail a leg, we’d have to conclude that a dog has five legs in New York as a matter of federal law. . . . Calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg,” agreed with the Commissioner, observing that federal law looks to the substance of legal interests created by state law, not to the labels the state affixes to those interests.

As for the QEZE Credit, the Tax Court agreed that it did not result in a taxable accession to wealth since it was really a refund of real property taxes that the taxpayer had paid to the state. However, the Court still determined that the refunded amounts would be taxable due to the tax benefit rule to the extent that a deduction had been claimed for the real property taxes paid. Under the tax benefit rule, to the extent a taxpayer obtains a refund of payments for which it received a tax benefit (such as a deduction), such refund should be taxable.

The Maines decision is one of the first Tax [...]

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More Tax Money for the City of Chicago in 2015: Broader Bases, Increased Rates and Lesser Credit

The City of Chicago’s (City’s) 2015 budget includes a number of changes to taxing ordinances found in titles 3 and 4 of the Chicago Municipal Code.  The City of Chicago Department of Finance has notified taxpayers and tax collectors of the amendments, effective January 1, 2015, via a notice posted on its website.  The text of the amendments can be found on the Office of the City Clerk’s website.  The amendments, designed to bolster the City’s coffers, affect multiple City taxes by enlarging tax bases, increasing tax rates and tightening credit mechanisms.  The amendments include:

  • Hotel Accommodations Tax(Section 3-24-020(A))
    • The definition of “operator” (the tax collector) was amended to include: (1) any person that receives or collects consideration for the rental or lease of hotel accommodations; and (2) persons that facilitate the rental or lease of hotel accommodations for consideration, whether on-line, in person or otherwise.
    • A definition of “gross rental or leasing charge” (the tax base) was added that excludes “separately stated optional charges” unrelated to the use of hotel accommodations.
  • Use Tax for Non-titled Personal Property(Section 3-27-030(D))
    • A credit is available for sales and use “tax properly due” and “actually paid” to another municipality against the City’s 1 percent use tax imposed on the use in the City of non-titled tangible personal property that was purchased outside of the City.  The added definitions of “tax properly due” and “tax actually paid” exclude other municipal taxes that are rebated, refunded, or otherwise returned to the taxpayer or its affiliate.
  • Personal Property Lease Transaction Tax
    • The exemption from the tax for a “car sharing organization” (i.e., Zipcar) was eliminated.  (Sections 3-32-020(A) (definition) and 3-32-050(A)(13) (exemption))
    • The definition of “lease price” or “rental price” (the tax base) was amended to exclude nontaxable, separately-stated charges only if they are optional.  (Section 3-32-020(K))
    • The tax rate was increased from 8 percent to 9 percent.  (Section 3-32-030(B))
  • Amusement Tax
    • The amusement tax was amended to be imposed on the full charge paid for the privilege of using a “special seating area” such as a luxury suite or skybox (Section 4-156-020(F)).  Credit against this tax is available in the amount of any other taxes the City imposes on the same charges (for example, food and beverage charges) if the taxes are separately-stated and paid.  Previously, tax was imposed on 60 percent of the charge for a special seating area and did not include a credit mechanism.
    • Credit against the amusement tax was eliminated for franchise fees paid to the City for the right to use the public way or to do business in the City.  (Section 4-156-020(J))
    • The amendments eliminated the additional tax imposed on ticket sellers (Section 4-156-033).  The tax was imposed on sellers selling tickets from a location other than where the taxable amusement occurs on the amount of the service fee (as distinguished from the taxable admission charge).  Now, all ticket sellers must [...]

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New Jersey Division of Taxation’s 2014 Tax Resolution Initiative – Not To Be Confused With An Amnesty

The New Jersey Division of Taxation (Division) is trying to help taxpayers resolve unpaid tax liabilities for tax periods 2005 through 2013.  Through November 17, 2014, the Division is offering taxpayers that pay all tax and interest for the applicable periods a waiver of most penalties (but not penalties related to the 2009 amnesty) and any costs of collection or recovery fees.  Notably, this is not an amnesty like those conducted in 2002 and 2009.  It is not statutorily mandated and no penalties may be imposed for non‑participation.  Because the initiative is not statutorily mandated, the Division is not offering something it could not offer at any other time.  However, the Division’s offer to waive most penalties may be a good chance for many taxpayers to resolve issue and move on and is worth considering.




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