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New Jersey Issues Guidance on BEIP Grant Conversion

This month the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (the Authority) provided businesses with guidance, in the form of Frequently Asked Questions, on how to elect to have their unpaid Business Employment Incentive Program (the Program or BEIP) grants converted into tax credits pursuant to N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:1B-129.

Under the Program, New Jersey awarded qualifying businesses cash grants for hiring new employees in the state for a term of up to 10 years.  Since the Program’s inception in 1996, the Authority has executed 499 BEIP agreements valued at nearly $1.6 billion.  However, since 2013, the New Jersey legislature has not funded the Program, and thus many businesses have not received grant payments owed by the state.

In January, Governor Christie signed P.L. 2015, c. 194 into law, permitting the voluntary conversion of outstanding BEIP grants into tax credits. The option to convert a BEIP grant to a tax credit is New Jersey’s attempt to provide relief to those businesses that have been awarded grants but have not received grant payments. The law, unfortunately, was short on details.

Businesses that wish to take advantage of the grant conversion must elect to convert the grant into a tax credit by July 11, 2016. Once the election is made, it is irrevocable.

Because a business cannot predict with any certainty whether the New Jersey legislature will fund the Program in future years, a business has to decide whether to opt to convert its grant. If a business does not elect to convert its grant, it risks losing all of its unpaid BEIP grants. On the other hand, if a business makes the election and the Program is funded in future years, the business will have no choice but to receive tax credits even though a cash payment might be more valuable to the business.

If a business elects to convert its grant commitments to tax credits, the credits will be issued over a period of years as set forth in the statute.   This delayed payment means that the business will suffer an additional loss of money owed by New Jersey on account of the time value of money. The statute provides that the BEIP tax credit must be used in the designated years and may not be carried forward. The credit is a priority credit and should be applied before all other credits. Accordingly, it is important to consider whether the other credits claimed by a business are refundable when deciding whether to make the election and calculating the potential benefit of conversion.

In anticipation of the July 11, 2016, deadline for businesses to opt to convert their grant into a tax credit, the Authority has provided guidance on how to make the election. This guidance, as mentioned above, is informal and not a regulation. The guidance provides that to make the election, a business must submit an executed Amendment to Agreement. The form Amendments to Agreement for different tax types are available on the Authority’s website.  Once a business opts to convert [...]

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Massachusetts Court Holds Department of Revenue’s Guidance to Be Unreasonable

Northeastern University, the Trustees of Boston University, Wellesley College and 131 Willow Avenue, LLC prevailed in their appeal of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s (the Department) rejection of their Brownfields tax credit applications in Massachusetts Superior Court. 131 Willow Avenue, LLC v. Comm’r of Revenue, 2015 WL 6447310 (2015). The taxpayers argued, and the court agreed, that the Department improperly denied their applications based on the unlawful use of Directive 13-4 issued by the commissioner of revenue (the Commissioner). At issue was the validity of Directive 13-4’s prohibition on nonprofit and transfer Brownfields tax credit applicants from receiving or transferring credits based on documentation submitted in a taxable year that commenced before the effective date of a 2006 amendment expanding the Brownfields tax credit statute to include nonprofit organizations and allow for credit transfers. The court held that the directive was “unreasonable and [the Department’s] denial of the applications based on that directive was unlawful.” (more…)




Should Companies Adjust Their Incentive Strategies in Light of New Governmental Accounting Disclosure Requirements?

Earlier this month, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) approved Statement No. 77, Tax Abatement Disclosures, which requires state and local governments to report on foregone revenue from tax abatement agreements. This will significantly increase scrutiny of negotiated tax incentives, particularly at the local level. Businesses need to consider how this may change their local incentive strategies.

To summarize, Statement 77 requires state and local governments to disclose basic information about their current incentive agreements, or other agreements, that reduce tax revenue:

  • Dollar amounts by which the government’s tax revenues were reduced as a result of tax abatement agreements;
  • The name and purpose of each tax abatement program;
  • The specific taxes being abated;
  • The authority under which the tax abatement agreements are entered into;
  • The criteria that make the recipient eligible to receive a tax abatement;
  • The mechanism by which the taxes are abated;
  • The provisions for recapturing abated taxes (e., clawbacks);
  • The types of commitments made by tax abatement recipients; and
  • Any other commitments made by the government as part of the agreements.

For tax abatements where a government has reduced its own revenue, disclosed information should be organized by each major tax incentive program. For incentives where one government’s revenue has been reduced by a different government’s abatement (e.g. a municipal property tax incentive reducing a school district’s revenue), disclosed information is based on the government that entered into the abatement agreement and the type of tax being abated.

Statement 77 permits the reporting government to decide whether to report the required information individually or in the aggregate. If agreements are disclosed individually, the government must establish a quantitative threshold to determine which agreements to disclose—it cannot disclose selectively. A reporting government is permitted to omit specific information if it is legally prohibited from disclosures, such as via state confidentiality laws or a confidentiality provision in the agreement itself.

The disclosure provisions of Statement 77 apply only to tax abatement agreements, which are negotiated agreements where a government agrees to forego tax in exchange for some benefit. Tax incentives that do not require an agreement are not affected. Negotiated grants or other non-tax incentives are also not affected.

Practice Note

Statement 77 will significantly change the world of incentives, particularly at the local level where negotiated agreements reducing property or sales taxes are common. The disclosures of the amounts of forgone revenue associated with tax abatement programs will provide ammunition to groups criticizing incentives, and gone are the days that The New York Times has to spend 10 months gathering state and local incentive data, as they did in 2012. Businesses should expect increased scrutiny during the approval process as governments become more sensitive to whether they are getting a “good deal.” Companies with existing agreements should also be concerned: local governments may seek to renege on their commitments as the costs become more apparent, particularly when new politicians come into office who were not part of the original deal.

One consideration in negotiating incentives [...]

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