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Finishing SALT: Inside SALT’s Monthly Recap

Wrapping Up June

Our June 2017 blog posts are available on insidesalt.com, or read each article by clicking on the titles below. To receive the latest on state and local tax news and commentary directly in your inbox as they are posted, click here to subscribe to our email list.

June 5, 2017: Nexus is Crucial, Complex Connection for State Tax Professionals

June 6, 2017: Substitute Alert – Delaware Technical Corrections Bill

June 8, 2017: Inside SALT Event in McDermott Will & Emery’s New York Office

New York, NY: The annual Inside SALT event took place on Thursday, June 8, 2017 in McDermott’s New York office. Tax lawyers Peter Faber, Todd Harrison, Stephen Kranz, Alysse McLoughlin, Art Rosen, Diann Smith and Mark Yopp presented a substantive half-day program highlighting many State and Local Tax updates, including recent changes specific to the New York area, Nexus developments in digital taxation, and news related to apportionment, transfer pricing and unclaimed property. The event had a successful turnout, with tax executives from many of McDermott’s top clients, and culminated in a networking reception.

June 8, 2017: Tax in the City® Event in McDermott Will & Emery’s Chicago Office

Established in 2014 by McDermott Will & Emery LLP, Tax in the City® is a discussion and networking group for women in tax that fosters collaboration and mentorship and facilitates in-person connections and roundtable study group events around the country.

McDermott’s second Tax in the City® meeting of the year took place on Thursday, June 8, 2017 in the Chicago office. The event began with a CLE/CPE presentation on Privilege and the Ethics of Connectivity. After a break for lunch and networking around the room, the program continued with a roundtable discussion focusing on best practices for drafting tax provisions in commercial contracts. Kristen Hazel spoke about drafting Letters of Intent, then Britt Haxton covered credit agreements, Sandra McGill covered withholding tax provisions, and Jane May wrapped up with settlement agreements.  Following that discussion, Mary Kay Martire passed our continuing discussion of the Illinois Grand Bargain over to Carol Portman, McDermott Alum and President of the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois, who shared with us some insights into the Illinois budget stalemate. The event concluded with Sandra McGill offering her insights into tax reform, as well as Kristen Hazel’s thoughts on preparing for new rules effective in 2018. The roundtable event aided great networking and conversations, and saw an impressive turnout with female tax leaders from many of McDermott’s client companies.

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Finishing SALT: InsideSALT’s Monthly Recap

Wrapping Up May – and Looking Forward to June

Our May 2017 blog posts are available on our Inside SALT blog, or read each article by clicking on the titles below. To receive the latest on state and local tax news and commentary directly in your inbox as they are posted, fill out the form on the right to subscribe to our email list.

May 16, 2017: Illinois Department of Revenue Affirms Cloud-Based Services Not Taxable

In two recent General Information Letters (GILs), the Illinois Department of Revenue (Department) reaffirmed that computer software provided through a cloud-based delivery system is not subject to tax in Illinois. The Department announced that while it continues to review cloud-based arrangements and may determine they are taxable at some point, any decision to tax cloud-based services will be applied prospectively only.

May 24, 2017: Illinois Bills to Watch

Just days away from the May 31 close of its regular legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly has yet to enact the comprehensive series of tax and budget reforms that were first proposed by the Illinois Senate leadership late last year. On May 23, the Senate passed a modified version of Senate Bill (SB) 9, the tax proposal we described in a previous post, without any Republican support, but it seems likely that Illinois’ Republican Governor will veto the legislation.

Looking forward to June:

June 8, 2017: Chicago – Tax in the City®: A Women’s Tax Roundtable

McDermott Will & Emery’s Tax in the City® network will host a CLE/CPE discussion focusing on current developments in professional responsibility and ethics, including a discussion focused on ethical issues arising out of our increasing access to connectivity.

June 8, 2017: New York – Inside SALT: Significant State Developments and Opportunities

McDermott Will & Emery’s New York State and Local Tax group presents a half-day program that will discuss a wide range of topics, including New York developments such as false claims and budget provisions, Nexus updates and developments in digital taxation, and new developments in apportionment, transfer pricing and unclaimed property.




District of Columbia’s Transfer Pricing Enforcement Program and Combined Reporting Regime: Taking Two Bites of the Same Apple

In his recent article, “A Cursory Analysis of the Impact of Combined Reporting in the District”, Dr. Eric Cook claims that the District of Columbia’s (D.C. or the District) newly implemented combined reporting tax regime is an effective means of increasing tax revenue from corporate taxpayers, but it will have little overlap with D.C.’s ongoing federal-style section 482 tax enforcement.  Dr. Cook is chief executive officer of Chainbridge Software LLC, whose company’s product and services have been utilized by the District to analyze corporations’ inter-company transactions and enforce arm’s length transfer pricing principles.  Combined reporting, (i.e., formulary apportionment, as it is known in international tax circles) and the arm’s length standard, are effectively polar opposites in the treatment of inter-company taxation.  It is inappropriate for the District (and other taxing jurisdictions) to simultaneously pursue both.  To do so seriously risks overtaxing District business taxpayers and questions the coherence of the District’s tax regime.

History

Both combined reporting and 482 adjustments have had a renaissance in the past decade.  Several tax jurisdictions, including the District, enacted new combined reporting requirements to increase tax revenue and combat perceived tax planning by businesses.  At the same time, some tax jurisdictions, once again including the District, have stepped up audit changes based on use of transfer pricing adjustment authority.  This change is due in part to new availability of third-party consultants and the interest in the issue by the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC).  States have engaged consultants, such as Chainbridge, to augment state capabilities in the transfer pricing area.  At the request of some states, the MTC is hoping to launch its Arm’s Length Audit Services (ALAS)[1] program.  States thus have increasing external resources available for transfer-pricing audits.

International Context

A similar discussion regarding how to address inter-company income shifting is occurring at the international level, but with a fundamentally important different conclusion.  The national governments of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G-20 are preparing to complete (on a more or less consensual basis) their Base Erosion and Profit Shifting action plan.  This plan will reject formulary apportionment as a means of evaluating and taxing inter-company transactions.[2]  Thus, in the international context, formulary apportionment and transfer pricing adjustment authority are not seen as complementary, but instead are seen as mutually exclusive alternatives.  The history of formulary apportionment in international context sheds light on why states make a mistake when they seek to use both combined reporting and transfer pricing adjustments.

A combined reporting basis of taxation seeks to treat the members of a consolidated group as a single entity, consolidating financial accounts of the member entities and allocating a portion of the consolidated income to the taxing jurisdiction based on some formula or one or more apportionment factors.  Under the arm’s length approach, individual entities of a consolidated group within a single jurisdiction are treated (generally) as stand-alone entities and taxed according to the arm’s length value (the value that would be realized by independent, [...]

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Let the Training Begin: MTC Transfer Pricing Audits Draw Near

Deputy Executive Director Greg Matson (a nice guy at heart) announced this week that the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) has hired its first transfer pricing training consultant and is scheduled to begin training state auditors.  The training, titled “Identifying Related Party Issues in Corporate Tax Audits” will be hosted by the North Carolina Department of Revenue from March 31 to April 1, 2015 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  While the much anticipated Arm’s Length Adjustment Service (ALAS, discussed in more depth in our February 6, 2015 blog post, available here) is still pending approval of the MTC Executive Committee and ratification at the annual meeting this summer, it has not stopped MTC officials from moving forward with training state auditors on transfer pricing.  This training (and any subsequent training offered before the annual meeting) will be conducted as part of the MTC’s “regular training” schedule (and is not directly tied to the ALAS program since authority to train for that program has not vested).  Nonetheless, Executive Director Joe Huddleston made it clear in a recent letter to the states that “[t]his course will preview the training to be provided through the Arm’s-Length Adjustment Service.”

The kickoff training session at the end of this month will be conducted by former Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel senior economic advisor, Ednaldo Silva.  He is the founder of RoyaltyStat LLC, one of the transfer pricing consulting firms that is being considered by the MTC to provide their services for the ALAS.  During yesterday’s teleconference of the ALAS Advisory Group, Matson and Huddleston were optimistic that additional training sessions would be offered by the MTC before the ALAS is finalized.  It remains to be seen whether this training will be offered by Silva or another participant from the October 2014 Advisory Group meeting that has submitted a bid to be the contract firm for the ALAS.  Because these trainings are a fundamental threshold step to commencing ALAS audits (projected to begin December 2015), they provide a strong signal that the MTC is optimistic that they will have sufficient support from the states to continue the ALAS program.

Too Soon?

In a letter distributed to 46 states and Washington, D.C. in February 2015, the MTC officially solicited state commitments to the ALAS program.  States were given until the end of March 2015 to respond.  By the terms of the ALAS proposal, the MTC will need a commitment from at least seven states for the program to move forward.  MTC officials announced at yesterday’s Advisory Group teleconference that the current count is zero (with one state declining).  While there is still time to respond, several revenue department officials voiced concern about making a commitment without more detailed estimates of costs.  Others voiced uncertainty about the ability to enter into a contract for such a long period under state law (the program requests that each state commit to four years).  While there was no significant undertone of opposition to [...]

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Multistate Taxpayers Take Note! Recap of the First Day of the MTC Pricing Summit

On October 6, 2014, the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) held the first day of a two-day meeting intended to educate state revenue authorities on corporate income tax issues surrounding intercompany transactions, and further refine a path forward for states interested in collaborating on audit and compliance strategies.  This first day focused entirely on presentations by specialists in transfer pricing and related intercompany transaction issues.  Two important themes and one blatant omission regarding future enforcement emerged from the first day:  (1) suggestions for increased disclosure and substantiation requirements; (2) safe harbor options and (3) a lack of discussion of how to prevent the risk of double taxation.

Taxpayers should be particularly concerned with the stress placed by the specialists on increased disclosure and substantiation requirements.  Most of the specialists emphasized the importance of getting information into the hands of revenue authorities.  Several suggested adding questions to the tax return itself such as “does the taxpayer use intangible property owned by an affiliate?”  These questions would be used to identify potential audit targets and focus audit inquiries.  Separately – but in a similar vein – several specialists suggested that taxpayers be required to create contemporaneous documentation substantiating their intercompany pricing at the state level.  An example provided was the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development proposal that a taxpayer provide a country-by-country analysis.  This example provoked at least one attendee to compare it to the infamous “50-state spreadsheet.”  Some specialists even suggested that states create special penalties for failure to properly disclose or create the required substantiation.

As some commentators acknowledged, a substantial concern with both the disclosure and substantiation suggestions is the risk of a significant increase in the cost of compliance for taxpayers.  State authorities should carefully consider the risk/rewards of any such action.  Increased state disclosure requirements, such as modeling the federal uncertain tax position rule, have not yet widely caught on among the states despite spurts of activity.  This is partially because of the administrative burden on taxpayers and partially because states receive a great deal of information from the Internal Revenue Service.  It is clear, however, that the states continue to be frustrated with the perceived tax planning problem.  The specialists expressed near-unanimous agreement that states need more information to properly enforce intercompany transaction issues.

The second theme of the day was the concept of safe harbors.  This theme took different forms but could be something that both taxpayers and state revenue authorities would support.  For example, some specialists suggested that for low-value transactions, safe harbor rules be created to provide increased certainty to taxpayers.  This might include providing limits on the percentage profit that could be made from certain types of intercompany transactions.  Other commentators and some states suggested, however, that additional safe harbor protections are unnecessary because state add-back statutes effectively provide safe harbor protection.

In a glaring omission, specialists failed to recognize or address the need to avoid double taxation.  Although several specialists noted that in the international area, most of the action happens [...]

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MTC State Transfer Pricing Program Looms on the Horizon

More formal, rigorous, and perhaps more frequent, state transfer pricing audits appear to be looming on the horizon, as the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) is set to launch a design and development project tasked with presenting a preliminary draft program by year’s end, with a final program recommendation due by the MTC’s annual meeting in July 2015.  The intent would be to create a dedicated MTC program, including staff, that would assist, as well as train, member states (both combined and separate reporting states) in conducting state transfer pricing audits as an alternative to hiring contracted consultants.

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