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Massachusetts DOR Sending Letters to Sellers Regarding July 1 Effective Date of Economic Nexus Directive

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (Department) sent letters to several companies regarding Directive 17-1. The Directive announces a “rule” requiring remote internet sellers to register for and begin collecting Massachusetts sales and use tax (sales tax) by July 1, 2017, if they had more than $500,000 in Massachusetts sales during the preceding year. The legal premise behind the rule is that the Department believes sellers with more than $500,000 in annual Massachusetts sales must have more than a de minimis physical presence so that requiring sales tax collection would not be prohibited by Quill Corp v. North Dakota, 504 US 298 (1992). The Directive’s examples of such physical presence include the presence of cookies on purchasers’ computers, use of third-party carriers to make white-glove deliveries and the use of online marketplaces to sell products. The Directive also states that sellers who fail to collect tax beginning July 1, 2017 will...

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Massachusetts’ First Really Good Amnesty Program Since 2002

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (Department) is widely promoting a new amnesty program with significant taxpayer benefits.  Our experience with Massachusetts amnesty suggests that this is the broadest program offered by the Department since 2002. Individual and business taxpayers may participate in the program for taxes due on or before December 31, 2015. To participate in the program, taxpayers must complete an amnesty return online and submit payment for the full amount of tax and interest electronically by Tuesday, May 31, 2016. The amnesty program, which waives most types of penalties, offers three special features for taxpayers to consider. Taxpayers in Audit Can Participate First, unlike many other state amnesty programs, the current Massachusetts program is available to taxpayers who are under audit. The Department’s auditors have been notifying taxpayers of the program, and Department personnel have confirmed with us that taxpayers under audit...

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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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Massachusetts DOR May Lose Staff This Summer

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) likely will have significantly less employees starting July 1, 2015, due to a Massachusetts employee retirement incentive program.  Governor Charlie Baker recently signed legislation establishing the program on May 4, 2015 (see 2015 Mass. Acts Chapter 19, An Act Relative to State Personnel).  With more than half of DOR’s employees eligible to participate in the program, DOR is the state agency with the potential to lose the highest percentage of employees. The program allows employees who already are eligible to retire but have not reached their maximum pension benefit to add up to five years onto their age, years of service or a combination of both, so they can retire immediately with a higher pension.  The program limits total workforce reductions in Massachusetts to 5,000 employees.  Eligible employees must submit an application to the State Board of Retirement between May 11 and June 12, 2015, to participate. ...

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Take Two: Massachusetts Department of Revenue Releases Revised Market-Based Sourcing Regulation

Late last week, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (the Department) released a revised draft regulation on Massachusetts’s new market-based sourcing law.  The changes made by the Department to purportedly address practitioner and taxpayer concerns were relatively modest.  The rules remain lengthy, complex and cumbersome.  There are still various assignment rules that apply to each of the following types of transactions: (1) in-person services, (2) professional services, and (3) services delivered to the customer, or through or on behalf of the customer (described in the new regulation as services delivered to the customer, on behalf of the customer, or delivered electronically through the customer, hereinafter “sales delivered to, by, or through a customer”).  For a more detailed discussion of these rules see our State Tax Notes article on market-based sourcing.  The most noteworthy changes from the initial draft relate to the taxpayer’s ability to use a...

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Does the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Still Believe SaaS is Subject to Sales Tax?

As noted in an earlier blog post, “[a] trend is developing in response to aggressive Department of Revenue/Treasury policy-making regarding cloud computing.”  This trend has not been friendly to aggressive Departments, and it appears that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (Massachusetts Department) may be subtly moving away from its own aggressive position regarding one type of cloud computing transaction, software as a service (SaaS). Following in the footsteps of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, the Massachusetts Department has been one of the more aggressive departments in the current debate over the taxability of SaaS (see, e.g., Mass. Regs. Code 64H.1.3(3)(a); Mass. Letter Ruling 13-5 (June 4, 2013); Mass. Letter Ruling 12-13 (Nov. 09, 2012); Mass. Letter Ruling 12-10 (Sept. 25, 2012); Mass. Letter Ruling 12-6 (May 21, 2012)).  In its various letter rulings on the subject, the Massachusetts Department has routinely stated its...

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