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Vermont Bill Would Repeal Cloud Software Tax Exemption

On January 16, a bill (H. 756) was introduced in the Vermont Assembly that would repeal the sales and use tax exemption for remotely accessed prewritten computer software. If enacted as introduced, the exemption would no longer protect Vermont taxpayers from this legally suspect tax beginning July 1, 2020. This is not the first time the Vermont Legislature has considered the issue of taxing cloud software. After the Department of Taxes administratively issued guidance interpreting the sales tax to apply to all prewritten software (including cloud-based software) in 2010, legislative actions were taken to curtail this administrative overreach—including a 2012 temporary moratorium and the aforementioned 2015 exemption—to preclude the imposition of sales tax on the mere accessing of prewritten computer software. Practice Note: With the introduction of H. 756, Vermont is at risk of reverting back to the dark ages of cloud tax uncertainty that existed throughout...

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A Steep Slope — Vermont Supreme Court Finds AIG Not Unitary With a Ski Resort Based On a Clear and Cogent Evidence Burden of Proof

In the first Vermont Supreme Court decision addressing combined unitary reporting since Vermont’s combined reporting regime became effective in 2006, the court affirmed a lower court’s decision that AIG, the multinational insurance company, was not unitary with a ski resort operated by a subsidiary in Vermont; accordingly, a combined report covering the two businesses was not required. The decision is important because it lays the foundation for future unitary cases in Vermont. The court agreed with AIG that there were no economies of scale between the operations of AIG and the ski resort. “Because [the entity] is a ski resort and therefore its business type is not similar to AIG's insurance and financial service business, there is no opportunity for common centralized distribution or sales, and no economy of scale realized by their operations.” On centralization of management, the court noted that although AIG controlled the appointments to the ski resort’s...

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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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The Vermont Department of Taxes Begins to Take a Close Look at Cloud Computing

On June 30, 2013, the Vermont sales tax moratorium on remote access to software expired.  At that time, the Vermont Department of Taxes (Department) reverted to its prior position that interpreted, without any analysis, the Vermont sales tax to apply to prewritten software that was “licensed for use and available from a remote server.”  Recently, the Department released draft regulatory language relating to the taxation of remotely accessed software and is currently seeking comments on the draft (due by October 1, 2014). The draft regulations provide a great deal of guidance, some good and some bad.  On the positive side, the regulations recognize that a sale cannot occur unless “use or control [is] given [to] the purchaser with respect to the software” such that “the purchaser is able to use the software to independently perform tasks.”  This language comports with established legal authorities in the state regarding when sales occur, rather than simply...

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