Pennsylvania Cuts Corporate Tax Rate, Makes Other Changes to Corporate Tax Law

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed into law omnibus tax legislation to implement the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2022 – 2023 budget. Among other things, the enacted legislation: (1) cuts the corporate net income tax (CNIT) rate from 9.99% to 4.99% on a phased-in basis; (2) adopts market sourcing rules for intangible-related receipts; and (3) codifies the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s (DOR’s) CNIT economic nexus rules outlined in Corporation Tax Bulletin 2019‑04. Notably, the enacted legislation does not include Governor Wolf’s prior proposal to strengthen the Commonwealth’s related party interest and intangible expense addback statute.

CNIT RATE CUT

Pennsylvania’s CNIT rate is currently 9.99%—one of the highest corporate tax rates in the nation. The enacted legislation phases in a decrease of Pennsylvania’s CNIT rate as follows:

  • January 1, 1995, through December 31, 2022; 9.99%
  • January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2023; 8.99%
  • January 1, 2024, through December 31, 2024; 8.49%
  • January 1, 2025, through December 31, 2025; 7.99%
  • January 1, 2026, through December 31, 2026; 7.49%
  • January 1, 2027, through December 31, 2027; 6.99%
  • January 1, 2028, through December 31, 2028; 6.49%
  • January 1, 2029, through December 31, 2029; 5.99%
  • January 1, 2030, through December 31, 2030; 5.49%
  • January 1, 2031, and each year thereafter; 4.99%

MODIFICATION OF INTANGIBLES SOURCING RULE

The enacted legislation shifts Pennsylvania’s sourcing regime for receipts from intangibles from a cost-of-performance regime to a market-based regime. The legislation generally sources gross receipts from the sale, lease, or license of intangible property to the location the property is used. Further, the legislation generally sources receipts from a broker’s sales of securities to the location of its customer and receipts from credit card interest, fees, and penalties to the billing address of the cardholder.

The legislation also contains detailed sourcing rules for interest, fees, and penalties earned by a lender, generally sourcing those receipts:

  1. From loans secured by real property to the location of such real property;
  2. From loans related to the sale of tangible personal property to the location the property is delivered or shipped; and
  3. To the location of the borrower (if not otherwise addressed by the legislation).

These sourcing rule changes apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2022. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Note to the legislation, the purpose of the sourcing rule change is to “[a]lign[] the apportionment rules governing sales of intangible property with the sales of tangible personal property, real property and services to be consistent with market sourcing (i.e., where the purchaser paying for the sale or using the property is located).” As discussed in a prior blog post, the Pennsylvania legislature changed the sourcing regime for services from cost-of-performance to a market-based regime.

Nevertheless, the Pennsylvania DOR has insisted that current law requires the use of a market-based approach to source receipts from certain intangibles, despite the cost-of-performance statutory regime currently in effect. For tax years before 2014, the Pennsylvania DOR also employed a market-based approach [...]

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Seattle Payroll Expense Tax Upheld by State Appellate Court

This week, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a challenge to the recently enacted payroll expense tax in Seattle, WA. Seattle Metro. Chamber of Commerce v. City of Seattle, No. 82830-4-I, 2022 WL 2206828 (Wash. Ct. App. June 21, 2022).

The tax, which went into effect on January 1, 2021, applies to entities “engaging in business within Seattle” and is measured using the business’s “payroll expense” (defined as “compensation paid in Seattle to employees,” including wages, commissions, salaries, stock, grants, gifts, bonuses and stipends). The tax only applies to businesses with a payroll expense of more than $7 million in the prior calendar year, and compensation is considered “paid in Seattle” if the employee works more than 50% of the time in the city. Additionally, if the employee does not work in any city more than 50% of the time, the employee’s compensation is treated as though it was “paid in Seattle” only “if the employee resides in Seattle.”

Although the tax is based on employee compensation, the Washington Court of Appeals held that incidence of the tax is on the employer, not the employee. This was a critical distinction because, under Washington law, municipalities generally are prohibited from levying taxes directly on wages (e.g., an income tax). By finding that the tax incidence fell on the employers, the Court was able to define the tax as an excise tax on the employer’s privilege of doing business in the city.

As expected, the tax is already bringing in significant revenue for Seattle. In its first year on the books, the tax brought in more than $230 million. Yet, despite this new revenue (as well as revenue from several other recently enacted taxes), Seattle is still projecting a financing gap of more than $100 million for 2022. Taxpayers are concerned that the city will explore even more revenue options to help close the gap.

The McDermott tax team is constantly monitoring tax developments on a state-by-state basis and will provide updates on the PNW specifically as they are made known.




“Voluntary” in Name Only? New Jersey Introduces Transfer Pricing Initiative

The New Jersey Division of Taxation (Division) has announced a “voluntary” transfer pricing initiative beginning June 15, 2022, and continuing through March 2, 2023. According to the Division, the initiative is targeted toward companies that have intercompany transactions that would be subject to transfer pricing adjustment.

The initiative is broadly available to taxpayers with related party intercompany pricing, even if those taxpayers are currently under audit or have a case pending before the Division’s Conference and Appeals Branch. However, the initiative does not apply to matters in litigation.

Taxpayers must agree in writing to participate in the initiative by September 15, 2022, and comply with Division deadlines thereafter (including by providing “all required transfer pricing, tax, and financial information and documentation” to the Division by October 31, 2022). As part of any agreement reached with a taxpayer, the Division will agree to waive all applicable penalties and all rights to assess any additional tax, interest or penalties except for adjustments relating to federal corrections.

Notably, the Division is warning taxpayers that do not reach an agreement through the initiative that in the future it will: (1) “assess all applicable penalties;” (2) “not waive any penalties;” and (3) audit according to the Division’s “regular audit schedule” without agreeing “to a methodology or settlement for any unaudited open tax years.”

Evidently, the Division has hired Dr. Ednaldo Silva, Founder & Director of RoyaltyStat, to assist with the initiative. Sources familiar with the initiative report that the Division will consider prospective-only settlement agreements under the initiative, under the right circumstances.




State False Claims Acts: “Knowing” Why They Matter for Tax Professionals

Like the federal government, many states have adopted False Claims Act (FCA) provisions that exclude tax matters from coverage. The federal model makes clear that matters under the Internal Revenue Service are not covered by the law,[1] and in the vast majority of cases, states also explicitly exclude tax from coverage.[2] However, there is a growing number of states seeking to extend FCA liability to tax cases in which “knowing” causes of action apply to any person that knowingly conceals, avoids or decreases an obligation to pay the state.[3] In such states, FCA liability, including punitive penalties and damages, will be argued to create liability for certified public accountants (CPAs) and other tax professionals who advise clients to take a favorable tax position on a tax return or simply file a return with an “error.” Under a “knowing” standard, an “error” is asserted to exist when the taxpayer’s position differs from someone else’s view of the law—the reasonableness of the position simply does not matter.

This risk is not hyperbole. On March 23, 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a warning to cryptocurrency investors and their tax advisors: “The consequences of a taxpayer’s failure to properly report income . . . are potentially far-reaching and severe [and could] result in taxpayer liability under the New York False Claims Act,” adding, “False Claims Act liability may also extend to tax professionals advising clients. . .”[4]

New York and Washington, DC, already extend FCA liability to tax cases and apply a “knowing” standard. In other states, FCA expansion bills have started popping up, too. For instance, there is currently a FCA bill before Ohio legislature proposing to extend FCA liability to tax cases and any person that “[k]nowingly present[s], or cause[s] to be presented, to an officer or employee of the state. . .a false or misleading claim for payment or approval.”[5] Recently, a proposal to expand the Connecticut FCA to tax cases failed to advance.[6] While the Connecticut FCA already includes a “knowing” standard, it only applies to false claims made in the Medicaid context. Additionally, New York legislature is considering a bill that would further expand the application of its FCA’s “knowledge” standard to “obligations” under the Tax Law.[7] However, the term is not defined in the Tax Law, making it unclear whether it would apply only to the “obligation” to file a return or to situations where a CPA or tax advisor provides general advice on a specific tax matter.

The trend to loosen the standard for state FCAs liability is a problematic shift leading to lawsuits that will assert that simply providing advice or a good-faith interpretation of the tax law to a client could result in liability under a state’s FCA. Adding insult to injury, these suits will threaten treble damages, attorneys’ fees and civil penalties per occurrence. Taxpayers and their advisors should know the breadth of each state’s FCA provisions and take them into account as [...]

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Maryland Attorney General’s Office Says Taxpayers May Inform Customers of Increased Charges Resulting from Digital Advertising Tax

In a brief filed on April 29, 2022, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office (Attorney General) agreed that the “pass-through prohibition” of the state’s digital advertising tax “does not purport to impose any restriction on what the taxpayer may say to the customer, or anyone else, about” increased billing charges because of the tax.

Last year, Maryland lawmakers enacted a first-of-its-kind digital advertising tax on the annual gross receipts from the provision of digital advertising services. The tax only applies to companies with annual gross revenues of $100 million or more. Shortly thereafter, Maryland lawmakers added a pass-through prohibition, which provides that “[a] person who derives gross revenues from digital advertising services . . . may not directly pass on the cost of the [tax] to a customer who purchases the digital advertising services by means of a separate fee, surcharge, or line-item.”

In litigation brought by McDermott Will & Emery in Maryland federal court, several leading trade associations have challenged the pass-through prohibition on the basis that it violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution by regulating how sellers may communicate their prices on invoices, billing statements and the like. However, in a brief seeking dismissal of the litigation, the Attorney General claimed that the pass-through prohibition does not regulate speech but instead only prohibits the “conduct of directly passing through to a customer” the tax burden.

Highlighting what it agrees to be the limited scope of the pass-through prohibition, the Attorney General states as an “example” that if a “taxpayer wishes to inform [a] customer that [an] invoiced charge is higher than it might otherwise be due to the imposition of the digital ad tax, the taxpayer is free to communicate that or any other message.” (Emphasis added). Further, the Attorney General agrees that “if the taxpayer wants to use the invoice as an opportunity to engage in political speech, the taxpayer is free to express its displeasure with the tax and identify who bears political responsibility for [the] new tax.”

Consistent with this position, the Attorney General does not dispute that the digital advertising tax may be reflected in the amounts charged to customers. Instead, the Attorney General argues that the pass-through prohibition is a “prohibition against direct, as opposed to indirect, pass-through of the tax cost,” which is intended to ensure that the taxpayer’s “annual gross revenues” subject to the tax “reflect the full amount of revenues received from customers, undiminished by any tax costs that the taxpayer might otherwise have preferred to pass directly to the customer.”

The parties are scheduled to file additional briefs in the case on May 13, 2022. The case is Civil No. 21-cv-410 (D. Md., filed February 18, 2021). Sarah P. Hogarth, Paul W. Hughes, Michael B. Kimberly and Stephen P. Kranz, partners in McDermott’s Washington, DC, office, represent the plaintiffs.




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