States are moving to advance different solutions in their efforts to address federal tax reform. Illinois recently introduced legislation to addback the new deduction for foreign-derived intangible income (a topic we’ve previously covered), and its Department of Revenue has issued its position on other aspects of federal reform. Oregon, after resolving a controversy between its senate and house, is about to pass legislation addressing deemed repatriation income and repealing its tax haven inclusion provisions.

Illinois Issues Guidance on Federal Tax Reform

On March 1, the Illinois Department of Revenue (Department) issued guidance explaining its position with respect to how various law changes made in the 2017 federal tax reform bill, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Act), will impact taxpayers in Illinois.

While, for the most part, the pronouncement provides a cursory analysis of the provisions of the Act and a conclusory statement as to whether each provision will result in an increase or decrease in a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (for individuals) or federal taxable income (for corporations), there are a few items that do warrant some specific mention.

With respect to Illinois’ treatment of the Act’s new international tax provisions, the Department provides some insight into treatment of deemed repatriated foreign earnings and global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI). For purposes of both the deemed repatriated foreign earnings and the GILTI, the Act provides that a taxpayer computes its taxable income by including an amount in income and taking a corresponding deduction to partially offset the inclusion. The Illinois guidance indicates that the inclusion in Illinois will be net, with both the income inclusion and the deduction taken into account in determining a taxpayer’s tax base. This is consistent with the provisions of the Illinois corporate income tax that provide that the Illinois tax base is a corporation’s “taxable income,” which is defined as the amount of “taxable income properly reportable for federal income tax purposes for the taxable year under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.” 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(1), (e).

Mitigating the tax impact of these provisions, the Department also takes the position that the amount included as deemed repatriated foreign earnings or as GILTI will be treated as a foreign dividend eligible for Illinois’ 100 percent dividend-received deduction. See 35 ILCS 5/203(b)(2)(O), (b)(2)(G). This rationale is in accordance with the provisions in the Illinois statute that provide a dividend-received deduction for dividends received or deemed received under Internal Revenue Code sections 951 through 965. Thus, because the deemed repatriated foreign earnings are included pursuant to section 965 and the new GILTI is included pursuant to section 951A, those amounts should both be dividends eligible for the dividend-received deduction.

In addition, the Department has specified that the new provision limiting the use of federal net operating losses (NOLs) in an amount equal to 80 percent of the taxpayer’s taxable income is a change that could provide an increased tax base or increased tax revenue to Illinois. Corporate taxpayers should not get confused, however. Illinois allows use of the federal NOL only for individuals. Corporate taxpayers, however, have to add back any federal NOL and then compute a separate NOL for purposes of the Illinois corporate income tax. Thus, neither the 80 percent limitation nor the change to unlimited carryforwards will impact the ability of a corporate taxpayer to use its NOL for purposes of the Illinois corporate income tax.

Nail Biting Success in Oregon on Tax Haven Repeal Following Federal Tax Reform

While drama surrounded Oregon’s legislation addressing aspects of federal tax reform, the end result provides clarity and relief for taxpayers with international affiliates. Oregon has now addressed the repatriation provisions of federal tax reform and is in the process of repealing its (hated) tax haven inclusion provision.

Oregon Senate Bill 1529-A addresses several elements of how the state will conform to federal tax reform. Oregon decided it needed to address reform rapidly because of the risk of a perceived windfall to taxpayers if the state did not change its existing dividend-received deduction statute. Absent the legislation, Oregon would have included both the repatriation addition and the deduction in its tax base and allowed its 80 percent dividend-received deduction against the gross, not the net. The adopted legislation changes this calculation. The legislation requires that amounts deducted for income repatriated under section 965 must be added back in calculating Oregon taxable income. This provision is added to ORS 317.267, the provision decoupling from the federal dividend-received deduction. The tax on the remaining amount would be due in year one, as there is no provision in the bill similar to the federal 8-year payment allowance. It is estimated that the state will receive approximately $160 million from the one-time deemed repatriation. Absent the change, the state would have lost $100 million.

The legislation provides additional relief from the tax on repatriated income. Oregon is one of the states that had adopted tax haven legislation, requiring income of the taxpayer’s affiliates incorporated in certain listed countries to be included in the taxpayer’s taxable income. ORS 317.716. As a result, Oregon may have already taxed some of the income now deemed repatriated. To alleviate any double taxation, new Section 33 in the bill allows a credit for taxes attributable to this income. The credit is limited to the lesser of the tax attributed to the repatriated income or the tax on the income included under ORS 317.716. Unused credits may be carried over five years.

The drama over passage of the bill revolved around a provision that repealed the tax haven inclusion provisions of ORS 317.716. The bill that passed the senate unanimously included the repeal of the tax haven provision. When it reached the house, however, Amendment –A9 removed the repeal. A hearing on the bill included testimony both for and against the repeal. Proponents argued that it was too soon to determine whether repeal was necessary and the tax haven provision should be maintained until the Department of Revenue completed a study to determine whether there was truly overlap between the tax haven inclusion and the GILTI provisions. McDermott provided written comments explaining why maintaining the tax haven provision was duplicative of the policy behind the new GILTI provision and would require complex computations to avoid double taxation when a taxpayer was subject to both GILTI and the tax haven inclusion. COST and the Tax Foundation also provided comments supporting the bill as passed by the senate that included the tax haven repeal language. The house ultimately passed a bill repealing the tax haven provisions, and the senate agreed in conference. The bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Under amendments to the bill, the Department of Revenue will have an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of GILTI, but it is not clear whether the pending budget bill will provide funding for this study.

Please contact us to join McDermott’s multi-state coalition, the STAR Partnership, which will address state business tax ramifications raised by federal tax reform. Further information is available here.

 

On August 4, 2016, representatives of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts held a limited-invite roundtable to discuss the proposed amendments to 34 Tex. Admin. Code 3.584, relating to the reduced rate available under the Texas Franchise Tax for retailers and wholesalers. As previously reported, these proposed revisions were published in the Texas Register on May 20, 2016 and have the potential to double the tax rate for a substantial number of businesses – namely those in the information technology and pharmaceutical industries.

Members of the Comptroller’s office present included Karey Barton, Associate Deputy Comptroller for Tax, Theresa Bostick, Manager of Tax Policy, William Hammer, Special Counsel for Tax and Jennifer Burleson, Assistant General Counsel. Several representatives of businesses and trade groups, along with legal and accounting professionals, were also present.

Ms. Bostick opened the meeting by reiterating the language of the statute and the proposed regulation, and clarifying the application of the proposed regulation’s language. To briefly summarize, the proposed rule provides that a retailer is considered to produce the products it sells (and therefore may be disqualified from the lower Franchise Tax rate available for retailers) if it “acquires the product and makes modifications to the product that increase the sales price of the product by more than 10 percent.” See proposed Rule 3.584(b)(2)(C)(i). A business will also be considered a producer if it “manufactures, develops, or creates tangible personal property that is incorporated into, installed in, or becomes a component part of the product that it sells.” See proposed Rule 3.584(b)(2)(C)(ii). The proposed Rule offers two examples of businesses that will now be considered “producers” rather than retailers: (1) a business that produces a computer program, such as an application or operating system, that is installed in a device that is manufactured by a third party; and (2) a business that produces the active ingredient in a drug that is manufactured by an unrelated party. These proposals represent substantial changes to both the current version of Rule 3.584 and prior Comptroller interpretations of the retailer/producer distinction, and are not supported by the language of the statute that the Rule purports to interpret.

Ms. Bostick explained that the Comptroller had received several comments on the 10 percent rule (some of which were reiterated at the roundtable, including comments that the 10 percent rule should be interpreted as a safe harbor rather than a ceiling and that it should be applied to both modification and development), and that the Comptroller will consider how to define “modification” in the context of Rule 3.584(b)(2)(C)(i) (such language was not provided at the roundtable). She then focused on Rule 3.584(b)(2)(C)(ii) and the examples provided thereunder, explaining that these provisions are meant to convey that if a taxable entity produces (with “development” being equivalent to “production” in this context) tangible personal property that is incorporated into, installed in, or becomes a component part of a product it sells, that business is considered a producer of the product. Because the Comptroller’s representatives view software as being tangible personal property under Texas tax law (apparently for all purposes, despite its inconsistent treatment as tangible or intangible property under different parts of the Texas Tax Code), it is their continued position that businesses that both develop software and sell devices onto which the software is installed are producers of the devices, even if all physical manufacturing of the device is performed by an unrelated party. This stands in contrast to the Comptroller’s treatment of prototypes that do not contain software; a business may in fact develop a prototype and provide that prototype to a third party for manufacturing without being considered the producer of the resultant product.

The Comptroller’s office then heard several comments by roundtable attendees. In a noteworthy exchange, Patrick Reynolds of the Council on State Taxation (COST) pushed the Comptroller’s representatives on its apparently arbitrary inconsistent treatment of prototype development versus software development. Mr. Reynolds provided the example of a surfboard, the value of which is substantially increased by the addition of a patented rudder that is developed by the company selling the surfboard. Mr. Barton, Mr. Hamner and Ms. Bostick engaged in a question and answer exchange and all ultimately agreed that if the company develops the rudder, creates a prototype of the rudder, and provides that prototype to a third party contract manufacturer who then incorporates the rudder into the manufacture of the surfboard for sale by the company, the company will not be considered the producer of the surfboard. However, if the company developed a software application that could inform surfboard users of optimal surf conditions, that company would be considered the surfboard’s producer even if the process used to produce the surfboard was exactly the same (i.e., development of the software, creation of a software source code, provision of the software code to a third party manufacturer for incorporation into the surfboard manufactured by that third party) and even if the software increased the value of the surfboard by a miniscule amount (as compared to the substantial value increase resulting from the rudder). Mark Nebergall of the Software Finance and Tax Executives Council (SofTec) added that in this case, the party replicating the software—not the designer thereof—should be considered the producer; the Comptroller’s representatives predictably disagreed.

These arbitrary distinctions are not supported by Texas statute or good public policy. Another attendee, Sarah Matz of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), pointed out that the Comptroller’s continued targeting of IT development can and will have a stifling effect on this important Texas industry. The Comptroller’s representatives did not respond to this point outright.

The Comptroller’s representatives have promised to consider the comments raised at the roundtable and circulate an update which will include any changes to the proposed regulation within thirty days.

Changing the past: Serious scientists, talented fantasists, regretful Ashley Madison members and many other segments of humanity have considered, and even longed for, the ability to rewrite history. One group has apparently succeeded – state legislatures that backdate tax law changes.

Such success may be short lived, however, as experts identify significant legal and policy faults with retroactively changing tax obligations.  Two recent articles in State Tax Today explain why retroactive tax laws should not be passed and if they are, should be invalidated by the courts – and invalidated retroactively. In “Retroactive Tax Laws Are Just Wrong” David Brunori (Deputy Publisher, State Tax Today) describes the fairness problem with retroactive tax legislation.  In a second article, the monthly interview column “Raising the Bar,” McDermott’s Steve Kranz and Diann L. Smith, Joe Crosby (MultiState Associates) and Kendall Houghton (Alston & Bird LLP) provide details on recent cases addressing retroactive tax changes.

The Council On State Taxation (COST) is also offering a discussion of this issue at its 46th Annual Meeting/Fall Audit Session in Chicago, Illinois (October 20-23, 2015).   McDermott’s Diann L. Smith, Catie Oryl (COST) and Scott Brandman (Baker & McKenzie) will discuss “Retroactive Legislation: Just a ‘Clarification’?”  If you are interested in receiving a copy of the COST outline following the event, please contact Diann at dlsmith@mwe.com.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform has released a report detailing current problems with states using private companies for unclaimed property audits and paying those auditors based on the amount recovered.  The report begins with an example of what can go wrong when private auditors are paid on a contingent basis.  The nightmare story of what many life insurance companies recently experienced is well worth the read by anyone who thinks that because their company has been diligently complying with unclaimed property laws, there can’t be any risk from an audit.

After reviewing the issues, the U.S. Chamber suggests several, eminently achievable, reforms.  These reforms include:

  • Prohibiting contingency fees;
  • Requiring all state contracts for private audit services to be subject to an open, competitive bidding process;
  • Requiring all such contracts to be posted on the unclaimed property administrator’s website; and
  • No delegation of state authority to private contractor on substantive decision-making, such as legal theories.

The report also offers suggestions that states provide voluntary disclosure programs with certain protections for participating holders.

Practice Note: Over a decade ago, several attorneys with McDermott’s SALT practice, while working at the Counsel On State Taxation (COST), drafted a Holder’s Bill of Rights.  While Delaware was one of the main proponents of the concept, it did not get any traction in other states.  The current negative impression many holders have regarding third-party contingency fee unclaimed property auditors could have been limited, and perhaps prevented, if states had embraced this idea.  It is probably time to consider this concept.  If third-party auditors offered such a pledge to holders, audits would be far less adversarial and be completed much faster.