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Taxpayers May Not Prepay Income Tax to Avoid Cap on SALT Deduction

The federal tax reform package recently approved by Congress (the Bill) contains a cap on the state and local tax deduction that may be claimed by individuals on their federal income tax returns. The Bill provides that an individual may claim up to $10,000 of state and local property taxes and either income or sales taxes. The cap expires on January 1, 2026. Individual taxpayers who have been considering prepaying their 2018 (or later) taxes in 2017 should be aware that the final version of the Bill contains a provision that prohibits individuals from prepaying their income tax for future years in 2017. As a result, any guidance issued by state revenue departments (for example, in Illinois) regarding the prepayment of 2018 income tax is no longer applicable. In certain jurisdictions, individuals may still have an opportunity to prepay their property tax assessments. For additional details, please contact your tax preparer.

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Tax Highlights of Proposed Illinois “Grand Bargain”

In an effort to resolve Illinois’ 20-month budget impasse, the Illinois Senate leadership (Senate Majority Leader John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Rodogno) have jointly proposed a series of bills to increase revenue, reduce spending, and respond to the Illinois Governor’s concerns regarding pension reforms, workers compensation reform and property tax relief.  A series of twelve bills have been introduced, all of which are interlinked for passage.  The bills are termed the Illinois “Grand Bargain.”  Most of the tax-related changes are found in Senate Bill 9.  The current version of the Senate Bill 9 (Amendment 3) (“Bill”) was submitted on March 3 and includes the following proposed changes:  Income Tax.  The Bill proposes to increase income tax rates, effective January 1, 2017 to 4.99% for individuals, trusts and estates, and 7% for corporations.  Other income tax-related features of the Bill include the elimination of the non-combination...

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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...

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Massachusetts Department of Revenue Introduces Pilot Voluntary Disclosure Program

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (the Department) released a draft administrative procedure introducing a pilot Voluntary Disclosure Program (the Program) for the settlement of uncertain tax issues for business taxpayers on January 19. The Department introduced this Program in response to a suggestion made by Scott Susko, an author of this article, and another practitioner, both of whom serve as taxpayer professional representatives on the Department’s Advisory Council. We commend the Department for reacting to this suggestion in such a proactive manner. The Program will provide “a process through which uncertain tax issues may be resolved on an expedited basis, generally within four months” (All quotations in this post are from the Department’s draft administrative procedure). We think this Program will be particularly helpful to public companies in resolving issues related to their financial statement reserves. The Program defines an “uncertain tax...

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D.C. Proposes Law to Allow Indefinite Suspension of Limitation Period for Assessment and Collection

The Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Act of 2015 (BSA), introduced by the Washington, D.C. Council at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser on April 2, 2015, contains a subtitle (see Title VII, Subtitle G, page 66-67) that would give the Office and Tax and Revenue (OTR) complete discretion to indefinitely suspend the period of limitation on assessment and collection of all D.C. taxes—other than real property taxes, which contain a separate set of rules and procedures. The change to the statute of limitation provision would eliminate a fundamental taxpayer protection that exists today in all states. Those concerned should reach out to members of the D.C. Council to discourage adoption of this subtitle of the BSA. Current Law Under current law, the amount of tax imposed must be assessed (in other words, a final assessment must be issued) within three (3) years of the taxpayer’s return being filed. See D.C. Code § 47-4301(a). Practically speaking, this requires the...

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Maryland Offers Attractive Amnesty Program – Even for Taxpayers Under Audit!

Starting September 1, 2015, the Comptroller of Maryland (Comptroller) will offer qualifying taxpayers that failed to file or pay certain taxes an opportunity to remit tax under very attractive penalty and interest terms.  The 2015 Tax Amnesty Program (Program) is the first offered in Maryland since 2009, when the state raised nearly $30 million, not including approximately $20 million collected the following year under approved payment plans.  The amnesty program offered before that (in 2001) brought in $39.4 million.  Consistent with the Maryland amnesty programs offered in the past, the Program will apply to the state and local individual income tax, corporate income tax, withholding taxes, sales and use taxes, and admissions and amusement taxes. The Program was made law by Governor Larry Hogan when he signed Senate Bill 763, available here, after two months of deliberation in the legislature.  While the Program is scheduled to run through October 30, 2015,...

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State Revenue Departments Misapplying Federal Tax Law

State income tax laws generally build on federal tax law.  The typical pattern is to begin the calculation of state taxable income with federal taxable income and then to modify it by adding or subtracting items where state tax policies differ from federal tax policies.  As a result, a corporation’s state taxable income can be affected by the application of the federal Internal Revenue Code.  State revenue departments generally do not consider themselves bound by Internal Revenue Service determinations respecting the application of federal tax law and believe that they are free to interpret the Internal Revenue Code as they see fit.  Unfortunately, this has led to problems because state tax auditors often are not well trained in federal tax principles.  We had an instance earlier this year in which an auditor claimed that the merger of a wholly-owned subsidiary into its corporate parent was taxable because there was an increase in the parent’s retained...

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Illinois Clarifies Treatment of Corporate Income Refunds in the Calculation of Retaliatory Tax

Illinois is one of a small number of states that impose both an income tax and a premium tax on insurance companies.  Disputes have arisen between insurers and the Illinois Department of Insurance (Department) regarding the proper treatment of income tax refunds in the calculation of retaliatory tax.  The dispute typically concerns whether an income tax refund should be included in the Illinois Basis of an insurer’s retaliatory tax computation for the year in which the income tax refund is paid or in the Illinois Basis for retaliatory tax computation for the tax year to which the refund relates.  The Department has taken the position that the income tax refund must be applied to Illinois Basis for the year in which the refund is paid, based on language of a Departmental regulation (50 Ill. Adm. Code Sec. 2515.50(b)) providing that Illinois Basis used to compute retaliatory tax must include “the amount of Illinois corporate and replacement income tax paid,...

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