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Did You Pay a Michigan Assessment After an MTC Audit? What the State’s Retroactive Compact Repeal May Mean

On September 11, 2014, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation (SB 156) retroactively repealing the Multistate Tax Compact (Compact, formerly codified at MCL § 205.581 et seq.) from the state statutes, effective January 1, 2008.  Among other things, the bill’s passage ostensibly supersedes the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Int’l Bus. Machines Corp. v. Dep’t of Treasury, 496 Mich. 642 (2014) (holding that (1) the enactment of a single sales factor under the Business Tax Act (codified at MCL § 208.1101 et seq.) did not repeal Compact by implication and (2) the state’s modified gross receipts tax fell within the scope of Compact’s definition of “income tax” which the taxpayer could calculate using Compact’s three-factor apportionment test) and relieves the Department of Treasury from having to pay an estimated $1.1. billion in refunds to taxpayers.  While many commentators have rightfully focused on the constitutional validity of retroactively repealing the Compact in Michigan in such a manner (including our own Mary Kay Martire in her recent blog post), we think it is equally as important to consider whether the repeal compromises the validity of prior interstate audit assessments authorized pursuant to the Compact.

Background

Article VIII of the Compact provides the specific rules governing participation in interstate audits conducted by the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) via their Joint Audit Program (Program).  Unlike other provisions of the Compact, Article VIII is “in force only in those party states that specifically provide therefore by statute.”  Section 8 of the Compact provides this authority, simply stating “Article VIII [of the Compact] shall be in force in and with respect to this state.” See MCL § 205.588 (repealed by SB 156).  This threshold matter must be satisfied before the MTC is authorized to audit and assess businesses and review their books and records on behalf of any particular state.

The MTC and its participating audit states have taken the controversial position that membership and participation in the Program is independent from a state’s Compact status (e.g. Massachusetts, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Wisconsin have not adopted the Compact, yet participate in the Program).  Further, even when authorized, states have the discretion to elect not to participate in the Program by simply opting out for one or both of the taxes audited (income and franchise, or sales and use).

Minnesota offers an example of a state that may have withdrawn from the Compact correctly while maintaining the State’s ability to participate in MTC audits.  In May 2013, the legislature enacted legislation repealing the Compact (H.F. 677, repealing Minn. Stat. § 290.171) (this legislation does not appear to be retroactive).  In doing so, the legislature included a separate provision authorizing continued participation in audits performed by the MTC. See Minn. Stat. § 270C.03 subd. 1(9), amended by H.F. 677.  While Minnesota ultimately opted not to participate in these audits, they have statutory authority if they so choose (but as noted above, the Compact itself may not allow for this).

Implications

Unlike Minnesota, the recent repeal in Michigan failed to [...]

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Multistate Tax Commission Appoints Keith Getschel as Director of Joint Audit Program

Beginning June 16, Keith Getschel will succeed Les Koenig as the Director of the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) Joint Audit Program.  Les Koenig is retiring as of July 31.  Mr. Getschel comes from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, having held the position of Assistant Commissioner for Business Taxes since 2012.  Mr. Getschel has worked in the Minnesota Department of Revenue for over 30 years, holding such positions as Director of Corporate Tax and Assistant Director in the Corporate and Sales Tax Division.  He also has experience as a supervisor in the Tax Operations Division, a tax policy manager, a revenue tax specialist in the Amended Returns Unit, and an appeals officer in the Appeals and Legal Services Division.

The MTC Joint Audit Program performs audits on behalf of participating states.  The program engages in audits of taxpayers simultaneously across multiple states, conserving state funds and time.  Mr. Getschel’s reputation as a tax administrator in the Minnesota Department of Revenue makes him a great fit for this position.  He has been viewed as taxpayer friendly and willing to work cooperatively with taxpayers to resolve issues.  We hope he continues this trend at the MTC.




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