Articles Tagged with “Mutli-state Income Tax”

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Each year, many states announce amnesty programs in an effort to incentivize taxpayers to pay state tax. Most programs, in one form or another, offer partial or full interest and penalty abatements if taxpayers pay back taxes owed. While the programs seem like a win for states in theory, as a state and local tax attorney, I can promise that such programs lead to problems. Auditors in the various states are told to close down improperly completed audits in an effort to get taxpayers in the amnesty program. This, in turn, leads to poorly conducted audits that must be protested and litigated. In short, state and local tax professionals in those states should be licking their chops for the bombardment of work that will likely ensue.

The most recent states to implement a version of an amnesty program are Arkansas, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Arkansas’ amnesty program applies to franchise taxes and runs from September 1st through December 31st, 2013. In order to participate, taxpayers must submit all reports and forms and pay the computed tax to the state. If a taxpayer meets the requirement of the deal, then Arkansas will waive all interest and penalties for delinquent taxpayers.

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Part 3 – Is the Item Taxable?

This article is a follow up to a previous article I wrote in dealing with tobacco tax audits. In addition to looking at the applicable statute of limitations and whether excise tax and shipping charges are included in the tax base any experienced Florida tobacco and beverage tax attorney should closely examine the taxable base to which the tax is being applied. As stated in other parts of the article, Chapter 210 Florida Statutes applies a surcharge and an excise tax on tobacco products. Part I of Chapter 210, F.S. works the same way for the tax on cigarettes. It is also noteworthy that the Florida beverage tax is applied in the same manner. It is simple math; the tax rate times the tax base equals the tax due. Being that the tax rate cannot be changed, a careful examination of the tax base must be undertaken to ensure the smallest amount of tax liability for the Florida taxpayer.

Although, the DBPR takes the position that many items are subject to the beverage and tobacco tax. However, as experienced tobacco and beverage attorneys we have learned that the almighty Florida DBPR often includes items that are not included in the taxing statute. Remember, the item has to be within the four corners of taxing statute to be taxable, and any ambiguities are to be resolved against the agency and in favor of the taxpayer. With that in mind, section 210.01, F.S., defines a cigarette to mean:

any roll for smoking, except one of which the tobacco is fully naturally fermented, without regard to the kind of tobacco or other substances used in the inner roll or the nature or composition of the material in which the roll is wrapped, which is made wholly or in part of tobacco irrespective of size or shape and whether such tobacco is flavored, adulterated or mixed with any other ingredient.

Similarly, section 201.25, F.S., defines a tobacco product as

loose tobacco suitable for smoking; snuff; snuff flour; cavendish; plug and twist tobacco; fine cuts and other chewing tobaccos; shorts; refuse scraps; clippings, cuttings, and sweepings of tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco prepared in such manner as to be suitable for chewing; but “tobacco products” does not include cigarettes, as defined by s. 210.01(1), or cigars.

Is the item in which the DBPR is trying to assess you or your client included in those definitions? We have found that the DBPR often assesses items that are arguably outside of Chapter 210 and the 560’s (for beverage tax). Are items like cigar wrappers subject to the tax? What items have you encountered that may not be a tobacco product for chapter 210, F.S., purposes?
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As many of you are aware, I have been closely following the Gate Fuel Services & Gate Petroleum in Florida. Those cases involved settled refund claims for gas stations that had purchased equipment for pollution control and were used in the manufacturing process. In January of 2013, a Virginia company took advantage of a creative similar sales tax planning strategy.

Specifically, the Virginia taxpayer operated an oil and natural gas well drilling operation. As the result of a sales tax audit, the Department of Taxation issued an assessment for use of equipment and supplies in the taxpayer’s business. The equipment and supplies at issue were pit liners and storage tanks.

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The taxpayer believed that the pit liners and storage tanks qualified for the “pollution control” exemption because the equipment was used “primarily for the purpose of abating or preventing pollution of the atmosphere or waters” of Virginia. Conversely, the Department asserted that the equipment was not exempt because the Department only recognized pollution control equipment certified by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) for periods through 2006.

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In 2012, West Virginia (home of MBNA) went after ConAgra Foods, Inc. ConAgra is a trademark holding company and wholly owned by a Nebraska subsidiary of CA foods. ConAgra held valuable trademarks and trade names from affiliated and unrelated entities such as Armour, Butterball, Healthy Choice, Kid Cuisine, Morton, and Swift, and licensed them back for a fee. With the recently decided KFC and MBNA on the back burner, West Virginia seemed destined to rule in the state’s favor on a seemingly similar transaction. Surprisingly, the West Virginia Supreme Court went the other direction.

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In 2011 a devastating taxpayer case in the SALT corporate income tax was decided. This slightly different spin on the case was introduced by a famous colonel and his chicken company. The company, known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, was incorporated in Delaware with a headquarters in Kentucky. KFC.jpgKFC licensed its valuable name to franchisors nationwide, including into Iowa. Slightly different than the related trademark license in the Geoffrey cases, KFC licensed its trademark to franchisor’s who independently owned KFC’s. Certainly the use of the KFC trademark in Iowa could not force Kentucky based KFC to pay Iowa income tax could it?

The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled that it could in 2010. Lacking physical presence, the court said KFC was economically present in Iowa because its trademarks were firmly rooted in Iowa. Further, the court opined that such intangibles were functionally equivalent of physical presence. The court concluded “the intangibles in Iowa” provided sufficient nexus. How an intangible trademark could be firmly rooted anywhere or be present in Iowa is beyond me. In its liberal reading of Quill the court stated that physical presence was limited to sales and use tax cases because the burdens of filing income tax are far less than that of a sales and use tax. Following the logic in this case, there is no telling how far states can go to tax foreign trademark holding companies.

About the author: Mr. Donnini is a multi-state sales and use tax attorney and an associate in the law firm Moffa, Gainor, & Sutton, PA, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Donnini’s primary practice is multi-state sales and use tax as well as state corporate income tax controversy. Mr. Donnini also practices in the areas of federal tax controversy, federal estate planning, and Florida probate. Mr. Donnini is currently pursuing his LL.M. in Taxation at NYU. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact him via email or phone listed on this page.

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Trademark licensing companies have always been a difficult inquiry for courts to analyze from a constitutional perspective in the state and local tax arena. At its very basic level, the trademark licensing company cases involve a holding company (almost always a Delaware company) with no physical assets or employees in the taxing state. The holding company holds a valuable intangible asset, a trademark for example, and charges another company a fee to use that intangible asset to sell goods in a taxing state. The question then arises – does the taxing state have the power to tax the out-of-state holding company based on other company’s use of its trademarks within that state?
Trademark.jpgThe only Supreme Court case that attempts to address this issue is Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, in 1992. In Quill, the Court held that in order for a state to have the power to tax a company within that state, the company must have some “physical presence” within that state. To add another wrinkle, Quill dealt with the ability for a state to force a company to collect its use tax. Does this “physical presence” apply to sales tax? What about corporate income tax?
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Traditionally, if a corporation met the eligibility requirements of an S-Corporation, then it is almost always advisable to elect “S” status for small corporations. However, amidst the fiscal cliff tax act of 2012, some of our clients have explored the option of converting to a C-Corporation. While the results of an empirical analysis are important, other often overlooked ramifications should be considered.

By way of background, many businesses incorporate to shield its owners from personal liability as a result of acts of the business. Most small businesses organize as “pass-thru entities,” which are S-Corporations, Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s), or partnerships. Such entities are called “pass-thru entities” because the entity itself does not pay tax; rather the income is taxed when it “passes through” to the owners. In a simple example if ABC, Inc. earns $100 and it has 2 owners taxed at a 35% rate, it will not pay tax on $100. Rather the owners will report income of $50 and pay tax of $17.50.

In contrast, the traditional C-Corporation is not a “pass thru entity,” because a corporation is taxed twice. The C-Corporation is taxed on income it earns and then is taxed again when its earnings are distributed to its shareholders in the form of a dividend. In my simple example, if ABC, Inc. was a C-Corporation, it would be taxed at 35% on its $100 of income, resulting in $35 of tax at the corporate level. Upon distributing its remaining $65 to its lone shareholder, the income would get taxed again. Assuming the old 15% tax rate on dividends, the shareholder would then pay another $9.75 in tax. Therefore, purely because of its structure, $9.75 in additional tax would be due if the company were set up this way. Adding several 0’s to my simple example, one can easily see how this simple example can quickly become an issue.
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