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Favorable Guidance from the New Jersey Tax Court on the ‘Unreasonable’ Exception to the Related-Party Intangible Expense Add-back

In a recent decision, the New Jersey Tax Court provided some long-awaited guidance on the “unreasonable” exception to the state’s related-party intangible expense add-back provision. In BMC Software, Inc v. Div. of Taxation, No 000403-2012 (2017), the Tax Court held that payments made by a subsidiary to its parent for a software distribution license were intangible expenses that were subject to the add-back provision, but that the statutory exception for “unreasonable” adjustments applied so that the subsidiary was able to deduct the expenses in computing its Corporation Business Tax (CBT). The court first determined that the expense was an intangible expense and not the sale of tangible personal property between the entities because the contract specifically called the fee a royalty, the parent reported the income as royalty income and the parent retained full ownership of the intellectual property rights indicating that no sale had taken place. Thus, the court determined that the intangible expense add-back provision did apply. The most interesting aspect of this case, however, was the court’s application of the “unreasonable” exception to the intangible expense add-back provision because that had not yet been addressed by the courts in New Jersey.

The Tax Court established two critical points with respect to the add-back of related-party intangible expenses: first, that the “unreasonable” exception does not require a showing that the related-party recipient paid CBT on the income from the taxpayer; and secondly, that a showing that the related-party transaction was “substantively equivalent” to a transaction with an unrelated party is sufficient evidence that the add-back is “unreasonable.” (more…)

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New Jersey Tax Court Finds Two Pennsylvania Taxes Are Not Required To Be Added Back

In a Corporation Business Tax (CBT) case, PPL Electric Utilities Corporation v. Director, Division of Taxation, Dkt. No. 000005-2011 (N.J. Tax. Ct. Oct. 2, 2014), the Tax Court of New Jersey found for the taxpayer and held that the Pennsylvania Gross Receipts Tax and Pennsylvania Capital Stock Tax were not required to be added back in computing New Jersey entire net income.

The case involves a 1993 amendment to the CBT statute regarding adding back taxes deducted in computing federal taxable income.  Prior to 1993, the New Jersey statutes required taxpayers to add-back only certain federal taxes and the CBT in computing New Jersey entire net income.  The amendment added a requirement that taxpayers add-back to federal taxable income taxes paid to states other than New Jersey “on or measured by profits or income, or business presence or business activity.”  N.J.S.A. 54:10A-4(k)(2)(C).  According to legislative history cited by the court, prior to the amendment “corporations which [did] business in several states [paid] a lower effective rate of tax on their New Jersey activities than [did] corporations which only [did] business in New Jersey.”  The court explained that the amendment corrected the inequity “by requiring multi-state taxpayers to add-back state taxes similar to that of the CBT.”

The Tax Court concluded that the Pennsylvania Gross Receipts Tax is not subject to the tax add-back, finding that the tax is:  (1) “based solely on the amount of electricity sold, regardless of whether income or profit is realized from such sales and not based upon the taxpayer’s business presence or business activity in Pennsylvania;” and (2) “passed through to the ultimate consumer of electricity.”  The court held that the Pennsylvania Capital Stock Tax was not subject to the tax add-back because it was in substance a property tax.

Interestingly, the Tax Court found that the New Jersey Division of Taxation’s (Division) interpretation of the tax add-back was not only incorrect but also discriminatory.

The 1993 amendment was passed because previously, solely New Jersey taxpayers were taxed on a higher tax basis than similarly situated multi-state taxpayers . . . .  Here, Taxation’s interpretation of the statute discriminates against multi-state taxpayers because they would be required to add-back the Pennsylvania Corporate Income Tax as well as other non-CBT-type taxes imposed by other states, such as the Pennsylvania Gross Receipts Tax and the Pennsylvania Capital Stock Tax, while solely New Jersey taxpayers are only required to add-back CBT-type taxes.  This court finds that the Legislature did not intend to cure one inequity by imposing another.

Given the number of different types of state taxes in existence, this case may have broad ramifications for multi-state taxpayers subject to the CBT.  We have seen the Division make similar adjustments to other companies on audit and this decision should be helpful in disputing those adjustments.  Additionally, multi-state taxpayers may have refund opportunities for similar taxes that they have previously added back.

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New Jersey’s New Laws — Retroactive for Most Companies

A newly passed New Jersey law is interesting both for what it does and for what it does not do.  Assembly bill 3486/Senate bill 2268, attempts to “clarify” four aspects of New Jersey law (retroactively for three of the four!).  The four areas affected by the law change are:  (1) the business/non-business income distinction (called “operational/non-operational income” in New Jersey); (2) a limited partner’s eligibility for a refund of Corporation Business Tax paid on its behalf by a limited partnership; (3) net operating losses involving certain amounts related to bankruptcies, insolvencies, and qualified farm indebtedness; and (4) click-through nexus for sales and use tax purposes.

Business/Non-Business Income Distinction

The distinction between business and non-business income (called “operational” and “non-operational” income in New Jersey) is critical as it determines whether certain income (such as gain from the sale of an asset) can be apportioned among the states or instead much be allocated to only one state.  The law change expands the definition of “operational income” so that many more transactions will result in the generation of apportionable income.  In fact, the law change is estimated to increase revenue by $25 million annually.

Historically, New Jersey’s definition of business (“operational”) income included gain from sale of property “if the acquisition, management, and disposition of the property constitute integral parts of the taxpayer’s regular trade or business operations. . .”  N.J.S.A. 54:10A-6.1(5)(a) (emphasis added).  Use of the conjunction “and” caused New Jersey courts to determine that all three activities (“the acquisition, management, and disposition”) must each have been integral parts of the taxpayer’s regular trade or business in order for the gain from the asset to be apportionable business (“operational”) income.  This could be overcome by demonstrating that one of the activities—usually the disposition of an asset—was not an integral part of a taxpayer’s regular trade or business.

The definition was changed, however, to replace the conjunctive “and” with the disjunctive “or” such that it will now read “the acquisition, management, and or disposition of the property constitute an integral parts of the taxpayer’s regular trade or business operations. . .”  Thus, because engaging in any one (or more) of those three activities as part of a taxpayer’s regular trade or business is sufficient, many more transactions will generate apportionable business income.

This provision takes effect for tax years ending after July 1, 2014.  This means that for a calendar year filer the provision takes effect retroactively for the tax year starting January 1, 2014, since the end of the year (December 1, 2014) is after July 1, 2014.  Interestingly, while the legislation refers to this change as a “clarification,” the fact that it is anticipated to increase revenue by $25 million indicates that it is, indeed, a change of law, reiterating that for the test really is a conjunctive one for prior periods.

Overturning the Result of BIS LP v. Director

There has been (and continues to be) a substantial amount of litigation in New Jersey courts regarding tax payments and tax [...]

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