The Illinois General Assembly enacted a number of new tax measures in a flurry of activity at the end of its legislative session. Some of the changes are taxpayer friendly and others are not. Unlike the no-deal chaos of past years, all of the measures have been or are expected to be signed by the state’s new Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker.

This blog post summarizes the income-tax and franchise tax-related changes approved by the General Assembly. Subsequent posts will address sales/use, property and other tax changes.
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Legislators in Frankfort added a new “video streaming service” tax to the omnibus tax bill (HB 354) as part of a closed-door conference committee process before the bill was hastily passed in the House and Senate. Notably, the new video streaming service tax was not previously raised or discussed as part of HB 354 (or any other Kentucky legislation) before it was included in the final conference committee report that passed the General Assembly in March.

Specifically, as passed by the General Assembly, HB 354 will add “video streaming services” to the definition of “multichannel video programming service” subject to the telecom excise tax.  This is the same tax imposition that the Department of Revenue argued applied to video streaming services in the Netflix litigation—an argument that was rejected by the courts in Kentucky and then subsequently settled on appeal. Under existing law, Kentucky taxes “digital property” under the sales and use tax. The term is broadly defined and applies to audio streaming services, but expressly carves out “digital audio-visual works” (i.e., downloaded movies, TV shows and video; defined consistently with the SSUTA) from the scope of the sales and use tax imposition. HB 354 would not modify the treatment of digital goods and services under the sales and use tax, and changes that would be implemented are limited to the telecom excise tax imposed on the retail purchase of a multichannel video programming service.
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On May 8, Governor Bill Lee (R) signed SB 558, which provides for the exclusion of 95% of Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) and foreign earnings deemed repatriated under IRC section 965 (965 Income) from the tax base for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2018. By enacting this bill, Tennessee joins about

A bill (AB 447) was introduced on March 25th in the Nevada Assembly that would create a broad new excise tax on the retail sale of “specified digital products” to Nevada customers. Instead of expanding the scope of Nevada’s sales and use tax, the bill would enact an entirely new chapter of the Revenue and Taxation Title imposing this new excise tax. Currently, sales of digital products, including electronic transfers of computer software, are not subject to the sales and use tax. Thus, the new proposal represents a major policy departure from the status quo. The introduced bill also would create inconsistencies with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA)—to which Nevada is a member state—and contains many potential violations of federal law under the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) that do not appear to have been carefully considered.

Broad New Tax

Specifically, the bill would impose the new excise tax “upon the retail sale of specified digital products to an end user in this State . . . [and] applies whether the purchaser obtains permanent use or less than permanent use of the specified digital product, whether the sale is conditioned or not conditioned upon continued payment from the purchaser and whether the sale is on a subscription basis or is not on a subscription basis.” Based on this broad imposition, subscription-based services and leases or rentals of “specified digital products” would be covered by the new tax. “Specified digital products” is defined as “electronically transferred: (a) Digital audio works; (b) Digital audio-visual works; (c) Digital books; (d) Digital code; and (e) Other digital products.” Except for “other digital products,” these terms are defined consistently with the definitions in the SSUTA (of which Nevada is a member). The bill defines the term “other digital products” as “greeting cards, images, video or electronic games or entertainment, news or information products and computer software applications.”
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While the state treatment of global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) was on the mind of many taxpayers, most state legislatures that enacted legislation in 2018 focused on the state treatment of foreign earnings deemed repatriated under IRC § 965, leaving the state treatment of GILTI unclear in many states. That said, of the states that enacted legislation addressing GILTI, very few have decided to tax a material portion of GILTI.

In states that did not address global intangible low-taxed income through legislation, a lack of clarity in the state laws created an opportunity for the STAR Partnership to seek favorable administrative guidance on the treatment of GILTI. The STAR Partnership pursued that opportunity in a number of states, as discussed in more detail below.
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Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) passed in December 2017, over 100 bills were proposed by state legislatures responding to the federal legislation. Thus far in 2018, nearly half of states have passed legislation responding to the TCJA. With some exceptions, in this year’s legislative cycles the state legislatures were primarily focused on the treatment of foreign earnings deemed repatriated and included in federal income under IRC § 965 (965 Income).

The STAR Partnership has been very involved in helping the business community navigate the state legislative, executive and regulatory reaction to federal tax reform, and IRC § 965 in particular. The STAR Partnership’s message to states has been clear: decouple from IRC § 965 or provide a 100 percent deduction for 965 income. The STAR Partnership emphasized that excluding 965 Income from the state tax base is consistent with historic state tax policy of not taxing worldwide income and avoids significant apportionment complexity and constitutional issues. 
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Earlier this month, the New Mexico Administrative Hearings Office issued an opinion that addressed the questions on the minds of many state tax professionals in the wake of federal tax reform: under what circumstances can a state constitutionally impose tax on a domestic company’s income from foreign subsidiaries, including Subpart F income, and when is factor representation required? These issues have recently received renewed attention in the state tax world due to the new federal laws providing additions to income for foreign earnings deemed repatriated under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 965 and for global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI). Since many state income taxes are based on federal taxable income, inclusion of these new categories of income at the federal level can potentially result in inclusion of this same income at the state level, triggering significant constitutional issues.

In Matter of General Electric Company & Subsidiaries, a New Mexico Hearing Officer determined that the inclusion of dividends and Subpart F income from foreign subsidiaries in General Electric’s state tax base did not violate the Foreign Commerce Clause, even though dividends from domestic affiliates were excluded from the state tax base, because General Electric filed on a consolidated group basis with its domestic affiliates.
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A Grain of SALT: April State Focus – South Dakota

On April 17, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in South Dakota’s case challenging the Court’s physical presence requirement for sales tax nexus. South Dakota v. Wayfair, Docket 17-494.

50 years ago, in National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue, 386 U.S. 753 (1967), the Supreme Court held that the Due Process and Commerce Clauses of the United States Constitution barred states from requiring remote retailers with no physical presence in a State to collect and remit sales tax. In 1992, the Court affirmed its prior ruling under the Commerce Clause. Quill v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992).

Quill has been at the center of state tax nexus controversy since the time of its issuance, as states have worked to restrict, and taxpayers have worked to expand the scope of the ruling. States and taxpayers have been continually tied up in disputes regarding the meaning of “physical presence” sufficient to trigger nexus. Concerned about the rapid growth of digital commerce, states have advanced increasingly aggressive theories of “physical presence” in an attempt to stem the loss of sales tax revenues from internet sales. Taxpayers, on the other hand, repeatedly have sought to apply the physical presence nexus standard to other types of taxes, principally income tax. Until South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court declined to accept review of any case seeking further guidance with respect to the physical presence nexus standard.
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On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Revenue (Department) issued additional guidance concerning its treatment of the new deemed repatriated foreign earnings provisions found in Internal Revenue Code Section 965, enacted in the federal tax reform bill (known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or “TCJA”).  The Department confirmed key aspects of Illinois’ treatment of the repatriation provisions, including:

  • Both the income inclusion and deduction provided for in the deemed repatriated foreign earnings provisions will be taken into account in determining a taxpayer’s tax base, so that the inclusion in Illinois will be net. The Department’s guidance references the new federal IRC 965 Transition Tax Statement, which a taxpayer must file with its 2017 federal return when reporting deemed repatriated foreign earnings; that statement includes both income under IRC 965(a) and the corresponding participation deduction under IRC 965(c).
  • Additionally, the Department’s guidance also confirms that the net amount included as deemed repatriated foreign earnings will be treated as a foreign dividend eligible for Illinois’ dividend-received deduction, which can be a 70 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent deduction depending on a taxpayer’s percentage share of ownership of the foreign subsidiary subject to the repatriation provisions. See 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(2)(O). (For tax periods beginning on or after January 1, 2018, 80 percent is reduced to 65 percent and 70 percent is reduced to 50 percent because this provision incorporates the federal dividend-received deduction rates found in IRC 243, which was amended as such by the TCJA.)


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This morning, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law that will exempt cloud-based software transactions from State Gross Retail and Use Taxes, effective July 1, 2018. The signing took place at the headquarters of Indiana-based cloud service provider DemandJump, Inc.

Specifically, Senate Enrolled Act No. 257 (which was unanimously passed by both chambers of the General Assembly) will add a new section to the Indiana Code chapter on retail transactions that specifically provides that “[a] transaction in which an end user purchases, rents, leases, or licenses the right to remotely access prewritten computer software over the Internet, over private or public networks, or through wireless media: (1) is not considered to be a transaction in which prewritten computer software is delivered electronically; and (2) does not constitute a retail transaction.” The new law will also clarify that the sale, rental, lease or license of prewritten computer software “delivered electronically” (i.e., downloaded software) is subject to the Gross Retail and Use Taxes.
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