Articles Tagged with “South Florida Sales Tax Attorney”

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Earlier in 2017, Premier Netcomm Solutions LLC (“Premier”) lost on reconsideration in New Jersey tax court.  The case dealt with the taxability of software as a service (“SaaS”) dating back to an audit from 2004 through 2005.  After initially beating for state, the court overturned a prior decision on reconsideration, which ultimately upheld New Jersey’s tax assessment.

Premier seems to be a classic IT provider in that it provides services such as network supports, internet access, consulting and design of IT and telephone projects, trouble shooting, remote training, data back-up, and network monitoring for businesses.  In the original decision, the court sided with Premier that its sales were not subject to sales tax.  The court concluded that prior to 2005, sales of services related to prewritten software were not taxable. In so doing the court invalidated New Jerseys tax assessment against Premier.

Unhappy with the decision, New Jersey’s Division of Taxation sought reconsideration, which is very difficult to prevail on.  The Court seemed to grant reconsideration because the original case erred fundamentally on its analysis.  Primarily, the court originally believed the law did not tax such services until its 2005 amendment.  However, the amendment was really based on New Jersey’s membership into the Streamline Sales and Use Tax Agreement (“SSUTA”) in 2005, which required it to adopt a uniform definition.  Therefore, based on a 2004 Bulletin, the court reconsidered the case and ruled that the services were and have been subject to tax since 2004.

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Tennessee is the latest of states to jump on the economic nexus bandwagon.  In an effort to sidestep the physical presence the proposed rule would require out-of-state dealers that engage in the regular or systematic solicitation of consumers in Tennessee through any means and make sales exceeding $500,000 to Tennessee consumers during the calendar year would be considered to have substantial nexus with the state. One substantial nexus is established, the dealers would be required to register with the state and collect and remit sales and use tax.

Similar to recent rulemaking in Alabama, Tennessee does not believe its position offends the Commerce Clause. The proposed rule, may go into effect on or about November 8, 2016. It is worthy to note the rule is subject to committee review in both house of the Tennessee legislature and legislative approval is needed before a rule can become permanent.

Tennessee is not the only state attempting to combat Quill. Similarly, Alabama and South Dakota are litigating whether their economic nexus standards are sufficient to satisfy the Commerce Clause substantial nexus requirement. Earlier this year, South Dakota adopted the economic nexus for sales and use tax purposes. South Dakota is currently a plaintiff and defendant in two separate cases addressing the constitutionality of the substantial nexus law.

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Now more than ever Amazon has been a one stop shop for many consumers. Not only can you buy just about anything you can think of on the Amazon website, but you can also receive lightning fast delivery of whatever you buy. Over the past few years, Amazon has taken their company to the next level. Now, in addition to selling items, Amazon provides a fulfillment service to online retailers.

As Amazon puts it, their fulfillment business “helps you grow your online business by giving you access to Amazon’s world-class fulfillment resources and expertise.” Simply put, the online retailer sends their products to Amazon. Amazon stores the item at one of its distribution centers. Once the item is purchased, Amazon packs and ships your product to the customer. In addition, Amazon provides customer support. While it certainly charges a fee for its services, Amazon boasts that retailers’ sales significantly increase. However, from a state and local tax perspective, this can create a ticking time bomb for the online retailer.
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The Constitution gives the power to Congress, and Congress alone, to regulate commerce with foreign nations. This means the individual states cannot regulate commerce with foreign nations. This concept is known as the Foreign Commerce Clause. While it seldom comes up in the area of state taxation, the Foreign Commerce Clause states, “Congress shall have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States . . .” This idea seems fairly simple conceptually, however, it can be difficult in practice to determine whether a state tax impedes on Foreign Commerce.

Since 2009, Indiana has been wrestling whether a provision of its state corporate income tax impermissibly burdens interstate commerce. Specifically, Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, took exception with a portion of Indiana’s corporate income tax law. As it turned out, Caterpillar incorporated in Delaware and had its headquarters in Peoria, Illinois and had one of its many plants in Lafayette Indiana. It also happened to own some 250 subsidiaries, most of which were foreign corporations.
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One of the main goals accomplished by legalizing marijuana in Colorado was the perceived increased revenue stream from state tax. Lawmakers strongly believed Colorado would benefit financially from the legalization of marijuana in its state. To their shock and dismay, the legalization has not been as profitable as lawmakers had hoped.

By way of brief background, Colorado enacted a pot tax in 2013. Specifically, on November 5, 2013, Colorado voters passed the pot tax. The tax operated similar to other sin taxes in that it came at a hefty rate. Recreational marijuana sales were subjected to a 25% tax which went into effect on January 1, 2014. Of the 25%, 15% will be tagged for public school construction projects and 10% was earmarked to funding enforcement regulation on the retail pot sales. This excise tax, which is similar to tobacco and cigarette taxes, is in addition to 2.9% sales tax at the retail level. Colorado estimated that the recreational marijuana tax would generate about $100 million in revenue within the first two years. However, as Colorado’s Legislative Council economist Larson Silbaugh eloquently put it “I think our original assumption about cannibalization was wrong.”

In fact Colorado’s projection on its pot tax was off by about 60 percent. In its first fiscal year, the tax generated just over $12 million, which was down from its $33.5 million projection. This also scaled back its year 2 projections from the $100 million number to about $30 million.

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From the days of Geoffrey through 2011, the states were largely victorious in corporate income tax nexus cases involving “foreign” holding companies. For example, Geoffrey itself lost in Louisiana (2008) (Bridges v. Geoffrey, Inc., 984 So. 2d 115 (La. Ct. App. 2008)), Massachusetts (2009) (Geoffrey, Inc. v. Comm’r of Revenue, 899 N.E. 2d 87 (Mass. 2009)), and Oklahoma (2005) (Geoffrey, Inc. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm’n, 132 P.3d 632 (Okla. Ct. App. 2005)). Other companies such as Lanco Inc in New Jersey (Lanco, Inc. v. Director, 908 A. 2d 176 (N.J. 2006)), Abercrombie & Fitch in North Carolina (A&F Trademarks, Inc. v. Tolson, 605 SE 2d 187 (N.C. App. 2004)), and The Classics Chicago, Inc. in Maryland (The Classics Chicago, Inc. v. Comptroller, 985 A 2d 593 (Md. Ct. Speical App. 2010)) all marked taxpayer losses.
In 2006, the Geoffrey concept was extended by the Supreme Court of West Virginia in Tax Commissioner v. MBNA America Bank, 640 SE 2d 226 (W. Va. 2006).

In MBNA, a credit card company with its headquarters in Delaware had no real or tangible property in West Virginia. For the two years of corporate income tax at issue, MBNA had gross receipts totaling over $18 million. The court concluded that while physical presence was required for sales and use tax purposes, it was not for corporate income tax purposes.
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With sparse logic and a few “authoritative law review” articles, the court opined that Quill was limited by the following language:

Although in our cases subsequent to Bellas Hess and concerning other types of taxes we have not adopted a similar bright-line, physical-presence requirement, our reasoning in those cases does not compel that we now reject the rule that Bellas Hess established in the area of sales and use taxes.

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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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Over the past few years many retailers and online companies have turned to shopper’s personal webpages for advertising. In our current online marketplace, individuals can post items, outfits, and recipes to their social media sites. Piggybacking on our growing use of social media in our daily lives, companies have taken advantage of this by paying individuals for tweets, posts, and other social media disseminations that drive customers to a company or online retailer. Using this tactic, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pintrest are being transformed into paid promotion generators. Social Media.jpgAn October 2012 article written in the New York Times that can be found here, discusses a Manhattan talent agent. In her free time the shopper posts various fashion items to her social media sites, such as lipsticks on her Pintrest account and her “night life collection” on Beso (which apparently is a shopping website.) If her posts drive customers to the lipstick site or Beso, the companies will reward her by paying her a fee. Some sites, such as Beso pay users around 14 cents for every click the individual sends to Beso. While other retailers, such as Pose, pay only when a product is purchased resulting from the click (usually around 5%). According to the article, the Manhattan talent agent makes about $50/month from promotion fees.

After reading this article, I am sure many readers had the same thought I did – can the fee paid from the retailer to the individual create nexus for sales tax purposes? Actually, I am sure the only people that even thought about this are state and local tax attorneys like me who spend many of their hours reading about sales tax laws. On a serious note, it does present an interesting sales tax law issue as to whether these activities can create nexus to an online retailer who has nothing in the state aside from a shopper who happens to post their products to social media.
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