Mixed reception for bill requiring “physical presence” for state taxation.

Industry representatives had praise for a bill that would prevent states from taxing businesses with no in-state physical presence in Congressional hearings yesterday. State government representatives, not so much.

National Taxpayers Union representative Andrew Moylan testified for the Bill, H.R. 2887:

  1. First, it says that no state can tax or regulate the activity of a person or business in interstate commerce unless that person or business is physically present in the state.
  2. Next, it defines physical presence as including property, employees, and other markers of genuine connection to a state.
  3. Then it goes on to define what does not constitute physical presence, including things like tangential advertising relationships, presence in a state for less than 15 days, and other kinds of transitory connections that states have used as avenues of tax collection.
  4. It protects non-sellers, such as intermediaries that are neither the buyer or seller in the case of the sale of an item, from being ensnared in tax or regulatory schemes.
  5. Next, it places original jurisdiction in federal district courts to help ease some of the morass of state litigation.
  6. Finally, it defines the terms it uses in more specific fashion.

South Dakota state Senator Deb Peters, appearing on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislators, disagreed, testifying that the bill “is one of the most coercive, intrusive, and preemptive legislative measures ever introduced in Congress.”

Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation testified that while the bill addresses real problems with overreaching state taxation, it leaves the collection problem of internet sales to in-state residents unsolved. Also: “…the bill’s language of prohibiting state regulation of interstate activity even where ‘otherwise permissible under Federal law’ arguably might disrupt the enforceability of interstate compacts previously approved by Congress.”

Given the strong opposition of state legislatures to the bill, it has an uncertain future. It is certain that state taxation of out-of-state businesses remains a very real problem for taxpayers as states become more aggressive in pushing the unclear boundaries of their taxing authority.

If you have questions on how to deal with your state taxation issues, contact Eide Bailly’s State and Local Tax team.

Washington sales tax bill targets out-of-state sellers and third-party marketplaces.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed legislation to help the state collect sales and use taxes from online transactions. The bill, H.B. 2163, combines elements of recent legislation in Colorado and Minnesota.

Washington follows Colorado’s lead by requiring vendors selling within the state to either collect sales tax from Washington buyers or report them to the state for assessment of use taxes. It follows Minnesota’s lead by imposing the same requirement on “online facilitators,” such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Vendors selling only through such third-party marketplaces will not have to comply separately.

A similar rule is applied to “referrers.” This rule applies to any taxpayer who:

…contracts or otherwise agrees with a seller to list or advertise for sale one or more items in any medium, including a web site or catalog; receives a commission, fee, or other consideration from the seller for the listing or advertisement; transfers, via telephone, internet link, or other means, a purchaser to a seller or an affiliated person to complete the sale; and does not collect receipts from the purchasers for the transaction

Vendors, third-party facilitators and referrers who opt to not collect sales taxes have to refer their customers to Washington revenue officials. They also must post prominent notices on their websites of the requirement for Washington customers to remit use taxes on their purchases.

Online vendors and marketplaces are subject to the rules if their annual sales in Washington exceeded $10,000 in the previous calendar year. The cutoff for referrers is gross income from Washington referral sources exceeding $267,000. The rules take effect January 1, 2018.

Reports say litigation is likely, but so far efforts to overturn notification requirements in court have failed. Taxpayers who might be affected should be considering how to comply with the new rules. Contact a member of our State and Local Tax team to learn more.



Washington Tradeshow Nexus

The State of Washington has carved out a nexus safe-harbor for out-of-state representatives attending qualifying trade shows/conventions.

Effective July 1, 2016, for purposes of Washington’s Sales and Use Tax, and also the Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax, the Washington Department of Revenue may not make a determination of nexus based solely on the attendance or participation of one or more representatives at a single trade convention per year in Washington.

So, what does this mean for businesses? Without more, businesses that attend/exhibit (but not sell) at only one trade convention, not marketed to the general public, per year, will not be deemed to have a registration and a tax reporting requirement for purposes of Washington Sales and Use, and B&O tax.

Click here to read Washington’s Special Notice.

Or, click here to view Eide Bailly’s “Understanding Nexus” video.

Alabama Attacks Physical Nexus Presence Standard

Just as several times before in United State Supreme Court jurisprudence, a brief and simple statement can garner a great deal of analysis and debate.  Recently, as part of his concurring opinion in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, Justice Kennedy commented that the Court’s 1992 Quill v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 decision is ripe for reevaluation.  As evidenced by its newest Rule (Ala. Admin. Code 810-6-2-.90.03), it appears Alabama has grown impatient. The Rule, in short, disregards Quill’s physical presence nexus standard for sales and use tax purposes.  Effective for transactions occurring after 1/1/2016, the new Rule will require out-of-state sellers to register, collect and remit sales tax if:

  1. The seller’s retail sales of tangible personal property sold into Alabama exceed $250,000 per year based on the previous calendar year’s sales; and
  2. The seller conducts one or more of the activities described in Ala. Code § 40-23-68 (which sets out a series of wide reaching in-state activities involving ownership of property, the presence of representatives, the qualification/authorization to do business, direct advertising, or franchising/licensing activities).

The above Rule establishes an economic nexus presence standard for sales tax.  Clearly, Alabama is attacking Quill’s physical nexus presence standard head on (even though Quill is still, technically, good law)!  Only time will tell how this will play out in the courts.  In the meantime, out-of-state sellers should evaluate their Alabama-destined sales, be prepared to comply with the Rule, and consider filing protective refund claims.

The Rule can be found here: https%3A%2F%2Frevenue.alabama.gov%2Frules%2F810-6-2-.90.03.pdf&usg=AFQjCNE0uDNQY6K4e2Fi8ODHGB0Fpj-6yQ

WA provides tax guidance on the new nexus standards

An out-of-state wholesaler will have economic nexus if it has (i) more than $267,000 in gross income in Washington; (ii) more than $53,000 of payroll in Washington; (iii) more than $53,000 of property in Washington; or (iv) at least 25% of total property, payroll, or income in Washington.

Washington ~ Business and Occupation, Sales and Use Taxes: Changes to Nexus Standards Explained

The Washington Department of Revenue has provided excise tax guidance on the new nexus standards applicable to out-of-state taxpayers making wholesale sales and retail sales in Washington. Effective September 1, 2015, out-of-state businesses making wholesale sales into Washington will be liable for wholesaling business and occupation (B&O) tax on sales delivered into the state for the current year if they meet any of the economic nexus thresholds during the prior calendar year. An out-of-state wholesaler will have economic nexus if it has (i) more than $267,000 in gross income in Washington; (ii) more than $53,000 of payroll in Washington; (iii) more than $53,000 of property in Washington; or (iv) at least 25% of total property, payroll, or income in Washington. In order to determine whether a wholesaler exceeds the $267,000 threshold, both apportionable income attributable to the state and wholesale sales delivered to Washington are included.

Effective September 1, 2015, a click-through nexus standard has been adopted for retailing B&O tax and sales tax purposes. An out-of-state retailer will be presumed to have nexus with Washington if it (i) enters into agreements with Washington residents and pays a commission or other consideration for referrals via a website link or otherwise; and (ii) has more than $10,000 in sales into Washington during the prior calendar year due to these agreements. The presumption may be rebutted by showing that each in-state resident with whom the retailer had an agreement was prohibited from engaging in solicitation activities on behalf of the retailer and did not engage in such solicitation.

Tax Topics: New Nexus Standards for Wholesale and Retail Sales — Effective September 1, 2015, Washington Department of Revenue, August 18, 2015, ¶203-928

Navigating SALT Nexus and Compliance for Not-for-Profits

As not-for-profit organizations expand their reach, many are unaware that they may be creating nexus in states where they have previously had a limited presence. Here’s what they need to know.

By Andrew Gray, CPA

August 18, 2015

State nexus and compliance for public charities and private foundations has been a long-standing issue, and as these not-for-profit organizations are able to expand their reach through technology and other means, state requirements for not-for-profits are also increasing. Many not-for-profits do not know that the states in which they conduct business have many rules that may apply to them.

State and local governments are actively interested in the charities that operate within their borders to ensure that the organizations’ assets are used for their intended charitable purposes and to protect their residents from being fraudulently solicited for donations. These governments are also interested in the financial gain from regulating charities. They may impose fees on the not-for-profit organizations based on their size (or other factors). In addition, if a not-for-profit organization has income from business unrelated to its exempt purpose, both the federal and state taxing authorities want to make sure they receive their share of any taxes on that income.

Not-for-profit organizations should consider the following factors before beginning any business activity within a state, to address the increased scrutiny of state and local authorities.

1.   Interested parties: The organization’s audience

Becoming compliant with the laws of state and local jurisdictions is increasingly important because of the accessibility of information to the general public. Several interested parties could be actively seeking information about the not-for-profit’s status with various states, including:

  • The IRS;
  • Foundations and donors;
  • Researchers and watchdog groups;
  • Legislators;
  • News media; and
  • State agencies and other federal agencies.

While the searching activities for the above groups are unknown, the information is available to them. In their efforts to increase revenue and protect their residents, it is probable that they would use what is readily available. In addition, the IRS and many states are sharing information about not-for-profits. Further, potential donors often use information from their state to ensure the organization is in compliance with state laws and not a fraudulent enterprise.

2.   Federal tax law requires compliance with states

Regs. Secs. 1.6033-3(c)(1) and -2(a)(2)(iv) require private foundations to furnish a copy of their annual Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation, to the attorney general of the following places:

  • Where the organization’s principal office is located;
  • Where the organization was created or incorporated;
  • Any state the organization reports to concerning its organization, assets, or activities; and
  • Any state where the organization has registered (or otherwise notified the state) that it intends to be (or is) a charitable organization or holder of property devoted to a charitable purpose.

While this federal requirement does not explicitly apply to public charities, if the state requires a copy of the Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, the organization must comply. In fact, Form 990 contains a list of states in which the form is required to be filed.

Public charities should be careful to send only the public disclosure copy of Form 990 to the states to ensure that donor information (contained on Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors) and other sensitive information are not released to the public. States often publish the Forms 990 on a website or send copies to those who request them. Generally they do not check to be sure that a public disclosure copy was sent.

In a recent case (Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris, No. 14-15978 (9th Cir. 5/1/15)), the Ninth Circuit upheld a California regulation requiring charities that are registered to solicit contributions in the state to file a nonredacted copy of Form 990, Schedule B. California maintains it does not make Schedule B available to the public, but, even so, organizations should be aware of the potential exposure in California and the need to provide only the required copy to any other state that requests it.

3.   Regulating solicitation and annual compliance requirements

A solicitation is defined as any request for a contribution, through any medium, i.e., asking for a gift or selling goods or services. If the organization is soliciting or conducting business, it may need to register with one or more offices within a particular state. Conducting business could mean a variety of things—including solicitation, having property or employees in the state, or selling goods or services in the state. The organization will also need to renew its status annually, which might include a simple postcard filing, a tax return filing, or filing an online form describing the organization’s activities and financial information.

Some organizations may be exempt from filing with a particular state. Although the exceptions vary from state to state, exemptions often apply to religious organizations and organizations that have raised less than certain amounts in the state.

As part of the requirements to register to solicit donations, states such as North Carolina require specific disclosures on their solicitations, written acknowledgments, receipts, and advertisements. Most state disclosures let the donor know where to find financial and registration information about the organization. Note that many states also regulate fundraising professionals (professional solicitors); the rules vary by state.

It is important, once an organization registers with the state, that it maintain its annual compliance. Many states are issuing severe penalties for noncompliance. And these states are hesitant to provide relief from penalties, even to small organizations (and are sometimes prohibited from doing so by law).

4.   Sales and use tax

Tax-exempt organizations must comply with each state’s sales and use tax rules much as for-profit businesses do. The analysis to determine whether an organization has sufficient nexus to be required to collect and pay over sales taxes is the same for a not-for-profit organization as it is for a commercial business entity. In general, not-for-profit organizations collect and remit sales tax for taxable sales. For example, if an organization sells T-shirts with its logo on it, this is usually a taxable sale, and sales tax must be collected and remitted to the state where the sale takes place.

The good news is that some states provide sales tax exemptions to not-for-profits for purchases, which is a valuable tax benefit when organizations purchase supplies or other items or services. This often overlooked benefit could save qualifying organizations 5% to 9% on purchases.

5.   Unrelated business taxable income (UBTI)

According to the IRS, more than 45,000 Forms 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, were filed for the 2011 tax year (IRS, Statistics of Income Division, Tax Exempt Organizations, Unrelated Business Income (October 2014)). Many not-for-profit organizations have income from activities unrelated to their exempt purpose (UBTI) or are considering engaging in those activities for additional revenue. Having income from business unrelated to an organization’s exempt purpose comes with additional state income tax compliance issues. In fact, most states conform to the federal income tax definition of UBTI and impose corporate income tax or state unrelated business income tax on state-sourced UBTI.

It is important for a not-for-profit to know whether it needs to file in a particular state. If the organization is not otherwise doing business in the state by soliciting contributions, then it should analyze whether it has income/franchise tax nexus in the state from specifically generating UBTI. If an organization is already registered with the state to solicit contributions, then it would need to apply the appropriate apportionment of UBTI to that particular state, if any, to determine whether it must file a return in that state. However, not-for-profits often have unrelated business losses, so it may be prudent to file in a particular state to preserve a loss that may be carried forward against future income. Note that even when an organization does not have UBTI, it may need to apply for exemption from certain state income and franchise taxes (e.g., North Carolina and California).

It is noteworthy to mention the complex matter of alternative investments (such as limited partnerships, real estate funds, and private-equity funds), which not-for-profits frequently use hoping for higher returns. (For a discussion of this issue, see Evans and Hall, “Are Alternative Investments Worth Their SALT for Tax-Exempt Organizations?” 46 The Tax Adviser 416 (June 2015).)

The bottom line

States are increasingly looking for more revenue and to protect their residents from fraudulent organizations by stepping up their regulation of not-for-profits. This increased attention gives not-for-profits an opportunity to further their mission through transparency while maintaining balance to provide only what is required of them. Preventive action is crucial when reviewing multistate activities and related compliance requirements. Not-for-profit organizations are well-advised to review their activities with their CPA and legal counsel to determine the requirements they must meet in each stat