State and Local Taxation

By Jaye Calhoun, Jason Brown, Willie Kolarik, Phyllis Sims, and Angela Adolph

The Louisiana Department of Revenue (the “Department”) has joined the ranks of cash-strapped states looking to raise additional corporate tax revenue through scrutinizing transfer pricing and proposing adjustments.  In transfer pricing audits, the Department looks at transactions between related parties (having common ownership) and seek to determine whether the transactions are priced as they would be if the parties were unrelated – i.e., whether the related-party transactions were made based on arm’s length standards. The current wave of arm’s-length transfer pricing audit activity in Louisiana is unusual, because Louisiana recently enacted an add-back statute and because the Department has been seemingly more active recently in attempting to assert the discretionary adjustment authority provided in La. R.S. 47: 287.480 to force related taxpayers to file combined returns.

During the past few years, the Department has worked with the Multistate Tax Commission’s (the “MTC”) transfer pricing initiative and Department personnel have received transfer pricing training from both the MTC and outside consultants.  The Department is also sharing information with other states and the Service.  The extent to which the Department is relying on outside consultants during the preparation of its quasi-transfer pricing study is not clear.

The Department’s recent arm’s-length transfer pricing adjustments rely on Louisiana’s transfer pricing statute (La. R.S. 47:287.480(2)), which tracks, verbatim, Internal Revenue Code Section 482 and permits the Secretary of Revenue to distribute, apportion, or allocate gross income, deductions, credits, or allowances between or among related businesses, if the Secretary determines that such distribution, apportionment, or allocation is necessary to prevent evasion of taxes or clearly to reflect the income of any of those businesses.  Historically, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) relied on Code Section 482 to make a wide variety of adjustments to the federal tax returns of related taxpayers.  However, since the mid-1980s the Service has generally limited its application of Code Section 482 to arm’s-length transfer pricing adjustments for international transactions between related taxpayers. For its part, the Department appears to be targeting Louisiana taxpayers with intercompany royalty expenses for transfer pricing audits. But other intercompany transactions may trigger examinations as well.

The Department’s current arm’s-length transfer pricing audit approach relies on the comparable profits method,  In essence, Louisiana auditors are coming up with their own “transfer pricing studies” for targeted taxpayers.  The Department appears to be using the Compustat Global Database to identify comparable companies that engage in activities similar to the auditor’s understanding of the taxpayer’s activities and then attempts to locate those same companies in a proprietary third-party database that purports to compile royalty rates extracted from unredacted license agreements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Department also relies on largely undisclosed subjective and objective criteria to narrow the list of comparable entities, such as excluding any comparable entity with losses.

The Department’s arm’s-length transfer pricing adjustments contain two other significant flaws.  First, if the Department’s own audit adjustment determines that a taxpayer’s operating profit margin is within the arm’s-length interquartile range, the Department still creates an adjustment to increase the taxpayer’s operating profit to the median operating profit margin.  Second, the Department has attempted to apply its audit adjustments to one hundred percent (100%) of a taxpayer’s operating income, even if only a small portion of the taxpayer’s operating income relates to controlled transactions.

Implications

The current wave of Louisiana arm’s-length transfer pricing adjustments is cause for concern.  Indeed, not only have the obvious flaws in the Department’s transfer pricing methodology already resulted in significant inappropriate adjustments, but there is reason to believe the Department will refuse to correct those errors, preferring to litigate one or more test cases that will set a favorable precedent for its methodology.  Such a precedent could be damaging to any taxpayer that engages in related-party transactions and does business in Louisiana.

The Department’s recent approach to proposing arm’s-length transfer pricing audit adjustments reflect an attempt to apply a novel understanding of Code Section 482 transfer pricing concepts to Louisiana taxpayers.  The Department’s proposed audit adjustments also suggest that the Department will not accept a taxpayer’s third-party transfer pricing study, even if the Service accepted that study and agreed that the taxpayer’s federal taxable income was correctly reported.

Properly documenting intercompany transactions is key to achieving a good result in a transfer pricing audit.  Related taxpayers that engage in multi-state or international intercompany transactions should review their intercompany agreements and carefully document any intercompany transactions.  That documentation should include a determination of the functions performed and assets employed by each party to the transaction as well as any risks assumed related to the transaction.  Taxpayer’s should also regularly review and update their transfer pricing studies and internal transfer pricing methodology.

Because the Department is intent on pressing this issue, a taxpayer that has received an indication or a proposed assessment suggesting that the Department intends to raise a transfer pricing issue, should handle any response carefully. Once a proposed or formal assessment is issued taxpayers should take care to calendar all deadlines and strictly follow all procedural formalities for challenging/appealing disputed adjustments.  It is important not to miss any opportunity to contest a proposed transfer pricing adjustment, because, until the Department refines its approach, many of the adjustments we have seen do not appear to correctly reflect income and are subject to challenge.

For additional information, please contact: Jaye A. Calhoun at (504) 293-5936; Jason Brown at (225) 389-3733; Willie Kolarik at (225) 382-3441; Phyllis Sims at (225) 389-3717; or Angela  Adolph at (225) 382-3437

By Carey J. Messina and Kevin C. Curry

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “TCJA”). The TCJA enacts a number of important tax changes, including some significant changes to the federal gift tax and the federal estate tax that take effect in 2018. Specifically, the TCJA doubles the amount of the “applicable exclusion amount” for both gift tax and estate tax purposes (as well as the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption). Under prior law, the applicable exclusion amount in 2018 would have been $5,600,000 per person but it will now be approximately $11,200,000 per person. This increase in the applicable exclusion amount will serve to make the estate tax a “non-issue” for more individuals.

Any individuals who included formula bequests in their wills that were tied to the applicable exclusion amount should review the terms of their wills to make sure the increase in the applicable exclusion amount does not create unintended consequences (such as leaving too much money to trusts for children to the detriment of a surviving spouse). Also, the new applicable exclusion amount may allow spouses to structure their wills differently without estate tax consequences (such as simply leaving all property to a surviving spouse in full ownership rather than a usufruct or trust structure).

For those individuals who continue to have estate tax exposure after the TCJA, those individuals now have additional gift tax exemption and may consider making additional gifts to reduce their estate if they had otherwise used most of their applicable exclusion amount previously. The gift and estate tax changes by the TCJA will expire and revert back to the prior law on January 1, 2026 (unless extended in the future) so taxpayers with taxable estates may want to take advantage of the changes before the provisions expire or are changed by a later law.

 

 

Overview

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R.1, also known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “TCJA”). The TCJA makes the most significant and sweeping changes to the federal taxation of business and individuals in more than a generation.  Due to the unusual speed with which the TCJA went through the legislative process, the new law raises several technical issues and contains numerous drafting errors that are expected to be addressed in a 2018 technical corrections bill.

This blog post summarizes several of the TCJA’s most significant tax changes for businesses and individuals.  The Kean Miller Tax and Transactions Groups will post additional summaries of specific, identified provisions in the coming days.

Corporate Tax Changes

Reduced Corporate Tax Rate – The TCJA permanently reduces the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% for tax years starting in 2018.

Capital Expenditures – For the next five years (or, for certain property, six years) the TCJA allows corporations to fully expense the cost of “qualified property,” including tangible personal property and computer software.  This provision is phased out after five years and does not apply to property currently in use.  In addition, the TCJA alters the cost recovery period for certain real property and leasehold improvements.  The Section 179 expensing cap is increased from $500,000 to $1 million.

Dividends Received Deduction – The TCJA reduces the 80% dividends received deduction to 65% and the 70% dividends received deduction to 50% for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.

Repeal of the Corporate AMT – The Corporate AMT is repealed for tax years beginning after 2017 and taxpayers can claim a refund for previously paid AMT amounts.

Net Operating Losses (“NOLs”) – The deduction for NOLs is limited to 80% of taxable income for losses arising in tax years after 2017.  NOLs generated in tax years ending after 2017 may be carried forward indefinitely, but the two-year carryback provisions are repealed (with certain exceptions).

Interest Expense Limitation –  For tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, the deduction for interest expense is limited to 30% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization through 2021 and of earnings before interest and taxes beginning in 2022.

Section 451 Revenue Recognition – Under the TCJA, and for tax years beginning after 2017, an accrual-method taxpayer is required to recognize income that is subject to the all-events test no later than the tax year in which the income is taken into account on the taxpayer’s financial statements (except for certain income).  The deferral method of accounting for advance payments for goods and services in Revenue Procedure 2004-34 is codified.

Research and Experimental Expenditures – Amounts paid or accrued for Research &Experimental expenditures after 2012 are capitalized and amortized over five years (15 years for certain foreign research expenditures).

Section 199 Domestic Production Deduction – The Section 199 deduction is repealed for tax years beginning after 2017.

Entertainment Expenses and Fringe Benefits – The 50% deduction for entertainment expenses is repealed, as are deductions for qualified transportation fringe benefits.  Deductions for other fringe benefits are also reduced or eliminated.

Like-Kind Exchanges – Under the TCJA, like-kind exchanges will be tax free, but only for real property exchanges.

Cash Accounting Limit Raised – More businesses will be able to use cash accounting as the upper limit in average annual gross receipts (measured as of the prior three years) has been raised from $5 million to $25 million.

Self-Created Property – The TCJA amends Section 1221(a)(3) and excludes patents, inventions, models or designs (whether or not patented), and secret formulas or processes that are held by the taxpayer who created the property or by a taxpayer with a substituted or transferred basis from the taxpayer who created the property, from the definition of a capital asset.  This provision is effective for dispositions after December 31, 2017.

Affordable Care Act – While the TCJA reduced the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) individual penalty to zero for months beginning after December 31, 2018, the ACA’s employer mandate rules have not been repealed and remain in full effect.

International Tax Changes

The TCJA’s most significant changes are to the US international tax regime.  Those changes include implementing a quasi-territorial tax system, imposing a one-time transition tax on accumulated foreign earnings, and imposing anti-deferral and anti-base erosion rules.

Pass-Through Deduction

The TCJA creates new Section 199A, which permits an individual to deduct up to 20% of their “qualified business income” earned through a partnership, S corporation or sole proprietorship, and qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends, qualified cooperative dividends, and qualified publicly traded partnership income.  This deduction expires on December 31, 2025.

Qualified businesses includes partnerships; S corporations; sole proprietorships; REITs; cooperative and master limited partnerships.  However, specified service trades or businesses with income over $315,000 of taxable income for joint filers or $157,500 for other filers (with the deduction phased out over the next $50,000/$100,000 of taxable income) are excluded, including:

  • Any trade or business in the fields of accounting, health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services; or
  • Any business where the principal asset of the business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees

Qualified business income includes the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss of a qualified trade or business that is effectively connected with the conduct of a US trade or business.  Certain specified investment-related income, deductions, or losses, and an S corporation shareholder’s reasonable compensation, guaranteed payments, or—to the extent provided in regulations—payments to a partner who is acting in a capacity other than his or her capacity as a partner are excluded from the definition of qualified business income.

Qualified business income deduction is limited to the greatest of 50% of wages paid by the business to its employees or 25% of wages paid plus 2.5% of the cost (unadjusted basis) of certain qualified business property.  Taxpayers with less than $315,000 of taxable income (joint return) or $157,500 (other filers) are not subject to this limitation (the wage limitation is phased in over the next $50,000/$100,000 of taxable income).

Individual Income Tax Changes

The TCJA reduces individual tax rates for taxable years beginning January 1, 2018 and ending December 31, 2025.  The top marginal tax rate is reduced from 39.6% to 37% and bracket widths are modified.  The new tax brackets are summarized below:

Single Individuals:

  • 10% – $0-$9,525
  • 12% – $9,525-$38,700
  • 22% – $38,700-$82,500
  • 24% – $82,500-$157,500
  • 32% – $157,500-$200,000
  • 35% – $200,000-$500,000
  • 37% – $500,000+

Married Filing Jointly and Surviving Spouses:

  • 10% – $0-$19,050
  • 12% – $19,050-$77,400
  • 22% – $77,400-$165,000
  • 24% – $165,000-$315,000
  • 32% – $315,000-$400,000
  • 35% – $400,000-$600,000
  • 37% – $600,000+

In addition to temporarily reducing the individual income tax rates and modifying the bracket widths, the TCJA also increased the standard deduction for married individuals filing jointly from $12,000 to $24,000 and for single filers from $6,350 to $12,700.  The TCJA also imposes significant limits on certain itemized deductions and eliminates several other deductions.  Notably, the TCJA limits the state tax deduction to $10,000, limits the mortgage interest deduction to the first $750,000 in principal value, and eliminates the home equity debt deduction and the personal exemption.  The limitation on itemized deductions, which phased out 3% of a taxpayer’s itemized deductions once income exceeded a threshold, is also suspended through 2025.  The Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”) is retained but the exemption is increased.

The Affordable Care Act required individuals not covered by a health plan that provided minimum essential coverage to pay a penalty with their federal tax return, unless an exception applied.  The TCJA permanently reduces that penalty to zero for months beginning after Dec. 31, 2018.

The legislation also permits distributions from retirement plans for persons who suffered losses as a result of the 2016 severe storms and flooding in Louisiana without penalty (but subject to tax, which may be spread over 3 years).  The distributions must be made before January 1, 2018.  Retirement plans may be amended to permit such distributions, and the amendment must be made by the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.  Also, distributees are permitted to repay such distributions within 3 years and treat them as rollovers.  This is an extension of the IRS guidance issued in 2016.

Implications

The TCJA is a significant and substantive, yet flawed revision to the US federal income tax regime.  The business tax consequences of the TCJA are only beginning to come into focus, but it is clear that most businesses should consider whether restructuring would make sense to maximize the tax benefits available under the TCJA.  In addition, certain provisions of the TCJA, such as the limitation on the interest expense deduction, could negatively impact certain businesses.  Those businesses should consider whether it is possible to restructure operations or financing to avoid or minimize the tax impact of the TCJA’s limitations on interest expense deductions.  For example, a highly-leveraged business could consider exploring alternative financing arrangements that do not generate interest expense.  Owners of flow-through entities that are not eligible for the 20% qualified business income deduction should also consider restructuring their operations in a manner that allows them to claim all or a portion of the deduction.

The TCJA will also have substantial state and local tax implications.  It is not clear at this time whether or to what extent states will conform to the provisions created by the TCJA.  But states like Louisiana that use federal taxable income as a starting point for computing state taxable income will certainly be impacted by the TCJA.

Kean Miller’s Tax and Transactions Group will continue to post updates as the implications of the TCJA for business and individual taxpayers become clearer.  For additional information, please contact:  Jaye Calhoun, Willie Kolarik, Jason Brown, Kevin Curry, Linda Clark, Bob Schmidt, and David Hamm.

By Angela W. Adolph

Construction Work in Progress (“CWIP”) is generally recognized as property that is in the process of changing from one state to another, such as the conversion of personal property from inventory to asset or fixture by installation, assembly, or construction.  See Valuation of Machinery and Equipment Construction in Progress (CIP), Pollack and Meier, Institute for Professionals in Taxation Property Tax Symposium.  Determining how a state treats partially-completed properties for purposes of ad valorem tax is an important question for any taxpayer, but it is particularly critical for an industrial taxpayer during the site location process.

There is no clear consensus among taxing jurisdictions as to whether or how CWIP is to be valued by a tax assessor on the applicable assessment date.   Many states, including Alabama, Missouri, and North Carolina, value CWIP based on the value or percentage of completion on the assessment date.  Kansas values incomplete construction based on the cost incurred as of the assessment date.  Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia assess CWIP when the work has progressed to a degree that it is useful for its eventual purpose.  And in South Carolina, improvements are only assessed upon completion.

With the exception of a few errant assessments in the early 1930’s, Louisiana has never assessed CWIP for ad valorem tax purposes.  Rather, the completed property is added to tax rolls and assessed as of January 1 of the year immediately following completion of construction. La. R.S. 47:1952.   This comports with and complements Louisiana’s industrial tax exemption program, which exempts certain manufacturing property from ad valorem taxation for a specified number of years.  LAC Title 13, Part 1, §53(D).   Unfortunately, property on which ad valorem taxes have been paid is not eligible for participation in the exemption program.  LAC Title 13, Part 1, §515.  Thus, if ad valorem taxes are paid on property as CWIP, the property would no longer eligible for the industrial tax exemption and would remain on the taxable rolls subject to assessment each year.  Obviously, assessing CWIP in this manner would significantly diminish the value of the program to taxpayers and undermine its usefulness as an incentive tool by economic development agencies.

In 2016, a local assessor broke with established practice and initiated an audit that included CWIP on a major industrial taxpayer.  This audit raised statewide and local uniformity concerns (assessment of CWIP of a single taxpayer in a single parish) and jeopardized the taxpayer’s existing industrial tax exemption.  The taxpayer immediately filed an injunction action in district court, and the Louisiana Legislature took note of the situation during its regular 2017 legislative session.  Recognizing the need to formalize the exemption, the Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to codify CWIP’s exemption from assessment. Louisiana is one of 16 states that require a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber of the legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot, so their vote underscores the strong support among lawmakers to codify the exemption.

Slated to appear on the Oct. 14 statewide ballot, Act 428 would add an additional subsection to Article VII, Section 21 of the Louisiana Constitution, which lists property that is exempt from ad valorem tax assessment. The new language would read as follows:

(N)(1) All property delivered to a construction project site for the purpose of incorporating the property into any tract of land, building, or other construction as a component part, including the type of property that may be deemed to be a component part once placed on an immovable for its service and improvement pursuant to the provisions of the Louisiana Civil Code of 1870, as amended. The exemption provided for in this Paragraph shall be applicable until the construction project for which the property has been delivered is complete. A construction project shall be deemed complete when construction is finished to the extent that the project can be used or occupied for its intended purpose. A construction project shall not be deemed complete during its inspection, testing, or commissioning stages, as defined by reasonable industry standards.

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subparagraph (1) of this Paragraph, this exemption shall not apply to any of the following:

(a) Any portion of a construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date that property is assessed.

(b) For projects constructed in two or more distinct phases, any phase of the construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date the property is assessed.

(c) Any public service property, unless the public service property is otherwise eligible for an exemption provided by any other provision of this constitution.

If approved by voters, CWIP would be exempt from property taxes until construction is “completed.” The proposed amendment defines a completed construction as occurring when the property “can be used or occupied for its intended purpose.” The exemption would thus remain effective until the construction project (or a given distinct phase of the project) is ready to be used or occupied for its intended purpose or for occupancy.

Industrial Strength Graphic Only

By Jaye Calhoun, Phyllis Sims, and Willie Kolarik

Despite consideration of an Ohio-style gross receipts tax, a Michigan-style single business tax and various versions of flat taxes, the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature ended on June 8, 2017, without the enactment of any significant tax reform. Because the Legislature neglected to compromise on the budget issues raised in the Session, Governor John Bel Edwards called a Special Session to convene half an hour after the regular session ended. The issues that could be addressed in the Special Session, however, were limited to budget issues pursuant to the Special Session Call.

Nevertheless, some tax legislation of note squeaked out and will become law if either signed by the Governor or after the expiration of the requisite passage of time if the Governor takes no action (or, in at least one instance below, if the voters approve a Constitutional amendment). Please note that, for those pieces of legislation below identified by Act Number, the Governor has signed the legislation. As of this client alert, the remaining items have not yet been acted upon by the Governor so they are not final. The Governor has, at latest, until June 27, 2017 to act upon (sign or veto) the legislation, or to allow the legislation to go into effect without signature.

In the meantime, here are some relevant tax provisions that made it out of the 2017 Regular Session:

Sales and Use Tax

Establishing the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board and the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers and creating an optional concurcus proceeding for certain taxpayer’s involved in multi-parish audits

Act No. 274 (HB601), enacted June 16, 2017.

Act No. 274 creates two new entities: the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board (the “Board”) and the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers (the “Commission”). The Board, consisting of eight members and domiciled in East Baton Rouge Parish, is established for purposes of creating uniformity and efficiency in the imposition, collection, and administration of local sales and use taxes. Among its powers and duties, the Board may issue policy advice and private letter rulings on local sales and use tax issues. The Commission, composed of eight commissioners and domiciled in East Baton Rouge, is established for the administration and collection of sales and use tax imposed by the state and political subdivisions for remote sales. The Commission will have the power, duty, and authority to serve as the single entity within the state responsible for all state and local sales and use tax administration, return processing, and audits for remotes sales.

Act. No. 274 also amended La. R.S. 47:337.86 to create an optional concurcus proceeding for a taxpayer that has received a formal notice of assessment from two or more Louisiana local collectors that have a competing or conflicting claim to sales and use tax on a transaction. In that instance, the taxpayer or dealer may file a concurcus proceeding before the Local Tax Division of the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals. If a concurcus is filed, the taxpayer or dealer, as applicable, shall pay the amount of sales tax collected or, if no tax was collected, the amount of tax due at the highest applicable rate, together with penalty and interest into an escrow account for the registry of the Board of Tax Appeals. The proceeding shall name as defendants all parishes that are parties to the dispute. Special rules for appealing a decision of judgment of the Board of Tax Appeals in the concurcus proceeding are also provided. Any taxpayer involved in a multi-parish audit should consider whether it is appropriate to file a concursus proceeding.

Act No. 274 became effective on June 16, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Addition of Certain Construction Contracts Excluded from New Sales and Use Tax

Act No. 209 (HB 264), enacted June 14, 2017.

Act No. 209 amends and reenacts La. R.S. 47:305.11(A) to provide that no new or additional sales or use tax shall be applicable to sales of materials or services involved in fixed fee and guaranteed maximum price construction contracts. The current law excludes any new sales tax levy on materials and services for a lump sum or unit price construction contract.

The provisions of Act No. 209 are applicable for purposes of any additional state sales and use tax enacted on or after July 1, 2017. Therefore, it appears that fixed fee and guaranteed maximum price construction contracts may not be excluded from the levy or a new or additional state or local sales and use tax enacted before July 1, 2017.

Act No. 209 became effective on June 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Medical Devices Exemption

SB 180, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 180 creates a sales and use tax exemption, beginning July 1, 2017, for medical devices used by patients under the supervision of a physician.

You can view the legislation here.

Income/Franchise Tax Credits

2015/2016 Reductions to Certain Income & Corporate Franchise Tax Credits Made Permanent & Restoration of Tax Credit for State Insurance Premium Tax Paid

SB79, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 79 provides that certain tax credit reductions will no longer sunset on June 30, 2018, making the reductions permanent. Specifically the tax credit for employee and depend health insurance coverage, the tax credit for rehab of residential structures, the tax credit for qualified new recycling manufacturing or process equipment and service contracts, the tax credit for donations made to public schools, the angel investor tax credit program, the digital interactive media and software tax credit, the musical and theatrical production income tax credit, the green jobs industries tax credit, the technology commercialization credit, and the modernization tax credit. The majority of the changes are minor, mostly reducing certain income and corporation franchise tax credits. The bill does, however, restore the corporate income tax credit for state insurance premium taxes paid.

You can view the legislation here.

Modifications to Inventory Tax Credit

SB 182, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 182 changes the limitation on refundability of excess inventory tax credits for local ad valorem taxes paid on inventory to clarify that only taxpayers included on the same consolidated federal income tax return shall be treated as a single taxpayer, i.e., related or affiliated taxpayers that are not included on the same consolidated federal return are not regarded as a single taxpayer.

If enacted, SB 182 would apply to all claims for credits authorized pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6006 on any return filed on or after July 1, 2017, regardless of the taxable year to which the return relates, but would not apply to an amended return filed on or after July 1, 2017, if the credits authorized pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6006 were properly claimed on an original return filed prior to July 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Goodbye Tax Credits

SB 172, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 172 terminates certain tax credits such as the tax credit for contributions to education institutions and the tax credit for employment of first-time nonviolent offenders, among others, as of January 1, 2020. The tax credits for expenses incurred for the rehabilitation of historic structures and for the conversion of vehicles to alternative fuel usage would terminate beginning January 1, 2022. The final bill did not impact the inventory tax credit.

You can view the legislation here.

Say Goodbye to Even More Tax Credits

Act No. 323 (SB 178) effective June 22, 2017

Act No. 323 sets termination dates for various tax credits and incentive programs, including programs administered by the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, specifically: the Corporate Tax Apportionment Program (July 1, 2017), the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program (July 1, 2021), the Sound Recording Investor Tax Credit (July 1, 2021), and the tax credit for “Green Job Industries” (July 1, 2017). At this time, the termination dates are not intended to be hard dates for termination, but are intended to be review dates for these programs, such that the programs should be up for review at the Legislature prior to being terminated. These programs will be up for review prior to their sunset and could be legislatively renewed.

You can view the legislation here.

Extension of Enterprise Zone Tax Exemption

Act No. 206 (HB 237) , enacted June 14, 2017.

Act No. 206 extends the sunset for the Enterprise Zone Tax Exemption Program from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2021.

Act No. 206 became effective on June 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Modifications, Terminations, and Extensions of Various Tax Incentives & Rebates

SB 183, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

SB 183 modifies, terminates, and extends various tax incentives and rebates. Some of the highlights include the following:

  • University Research and Development Parks: No new contracts to be entered after July 1, 2017.
  • Enterprise Zone Program: No new advance notifications shall be accepted after July 1, 2021.
  • Mega-Project Energy Assistance Rebate: No cooperative endeavor agreements shall be entered into after July 1, 2017.
  • Quality Jobs Program: No new advance notifications shall be accepted after July 1, 2022.
  • Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive Program: No new contracts shall be approved after July 1, 2022.
  • Quality Jobs Program: Minimum benefit rate was lowered to 4% from 5% and per-hour compensation required by employers to receive benefit was increased to $18.00 per hour from $14.50 per hour; per-hour compensation to receive 6% benefit rate is now $21.66 per hour; employer must be located in parish within the lowest 25% of parishes based on income; added to the list of professions and services not eligible for the rebate; and increased gross payroll to $625,000 and new direct jobs to 15 for the third year rebate for large employers.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Solar Tax Credit

HBHB 187, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HBHB 187 reduces the eligible time period for tax credit claims paid for solar energy systems purchased and installed in a new home from before January 1, 2018 to January 1, 2016. It also adds a three-year structured payout provision that authorizes tax credit claims on systems purchased on or before December 31, 2015 and caps the maximum amount of credits paid out at $5M each fiscal year, exclusive of interest. HB 187 also increases the amount of tax credits for leased solar energy systems installed on or after January 1, 2014 and before July 1, 2015 to 38% of the first $25,000 of the cost of purchase, from 30% of the first $20,000 of the cost of purchase.

You can view the legislation here.

Research and Development Tax Credit Changes

HB 300, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 300 makes a number of changes to the research and development tax credit program including extending it for three years, reducing the amount of the credits, and allowing for transferability of the Small Business Innovation Research Grant credit.

You can view the legislation here.

Inventory Tax Credit for Movables Held by Persons Engaged in Short-term Rentals

HB 313, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 313 addresses, in part, the duplicative (triplicative) tax burden on lessors and lessees of heavy equipment, making changes to the tax credit for local inventory taxes paid by expanding the definition of inventory to include any item of tangible personal property owned by a retailer that is available for or subject to a short-term rental that will subsequently or ultimately be sold by the retailer. “Short-term rental” is defined as a rental of an item for a period of “less than three hundred sixty-five days, for an undefined period, or under an open-ended agreement.” The bill also adds to the definition of retailer to include a person engaged in short-term rental of tangible personal property classified under NAICS codes 532412, e.g., a person in the construction, mining, oil field or oil well rental industry, and 532310, e.g., general rental centers and rent-all centers, and that is registered with the Department of Revenue.

In enacted, HB 313 would be effective retroactively to tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2016.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Rules Regarding Tax Credits Concerning vessels in OCSLA Waters

HB 425, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 425 takes away the restriction that taxes paid under protest were ineligible for the tax credit for ad valorem taxes paid with respect to vessels in Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Waters. The bill requires that a taxpayer who pays ad valorem taxes under protest provide notification to the Louisiana Department of Revenue, including copies of the payment under protest and the filed lawsuit and provides a mechanism for the Department to recapture the a credit related to an amount paid under protest if the taxpayer does not prevail. Special rules apply to challenges to the legality, as opposed to the correctness, of the property tax on vessels in Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Waters.

If enacted, the HB 425 would apply to income tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2017, and corporation franchise tax periods beginning on and after January 1, 2018.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Angel Investor Tax Credit

HB 454, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 454 extends the sunset for the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program until July 1, 2021. The bill sets the rate of the credit at 25% of the amount of investment divided equally over three years and reduces the overall limit per business to $1.44 million.

If enacted, the effective date for the extended sunset of the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program would become effective on July 1, 2017. The remaining portions of HB 454 would become effective July 1, 2018.

You can view the legislation here.

Oil and Gas Fees/Taxes

Changes to Oilfield Site Restoration Statute

HB 98, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 98 decouples the definitions of “oil,” “condensate,” and “gas” in the Oil Field Site Restoration Fund fee statute from the severance tax statutes. Currently, in addition to severance taxes, there is a set fee on the production of oil, condensate, and gas. The proceeds of that fee are to be used for the oilfield site restoration program in the Department of Natural Resources. The bill states that the full production rate fee shall include all production from oil and gas wells except for production from reduced rate production wells. The bill also repeals the provision that sets the fee for full-production wells in proportion to the rate of severance tax collected. The bill does not change the proportional fee for reduced rate production wells (i.e, stripper wells and incapable wells).

If enacted, the provisions of HB 98 would become effective on July 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Changes to Severance Tax Exemptions for Bringing Inactive and Orphan Wells back into Production 

HB 461, not acted upon by the Governor as of June 22, 2017.

HB 461 changes the length and amount of severance tax exemptions for bringing certain inactive and orphan wells back into production. The bill changes the exemption from a 5-year exemption to a 10-year exemption. Bringing back inactive wells will entitle the taxpayer to a 50% rate reduction and bringing back an orphan well will entitle the taxpayer to a 75% reduction on the severance tax. To qualify for the reduced rate, the production must be produced from the same perforated producing interval or from 100 feet above and 100 feet below the perforated producing interval for lease wells, and within the correlative defined interval for unitized reservoirs, that the formerly inactive or orphaned well produced from before being inactive or designated as an orphan well. The bill caps the program at $15 million per fiscal year.

If enacted, the provisions of HB 461 would become effective August 1, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Other Tax Updates

Electronic Filing of Tax Returns

Act No. 150 (HB HB 333), enacted June 12, 2017.

Act No. 150 authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Revenue to require that tax payments be made by electronic funds transfer and that returns be filed electronically. It also contains a penalty for failure to comply with electronic filing requirements equal to the greater of $100 or 5% for the tax.

Act No. 150 became effective on June 12, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment: Property Tax Exemption for Property Delivered to Construction Site

SB 140

SB 140 is a proposed constitutional amendment to exempt from ad valorem tax all property delivered to a construction project site for the purpose of incorporating the property into any tract of land, building, or other construction as a component part, including the , including the type of property that may be deemed to be a component part once placed on an immovable for its service and improvement. This exemption would apply until the construction project is completed (i.e., occupied and used for its intended purpose). The exemption would not apply to (1) any portion of a construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date that property is assessed; (2) for projects constructed in two or more distinct phases, any phase of the construction project that is complete, available for its intended use, or operational on the date the property is assessed; (3) certain public service property.

A constitutional amendment does not require action by the Governor. This constitutional amendment will be placed on the ballot at the statewide election to be held on October 14, 2017.

You can view the legislation here.

For questions or additional information, please contact: Jaye Calhoun at (504) 293-5936, Phyllis Sims at (225) 389-3717, Jason Brown at (225) 389-3733, Angela Adolph at (225) 382-3437, or Willie Kolarik at (225) 382-3441.

 

labor

By Jaye Calhoun and David Hamm

It’s time to amend the governing documents of flow-through entities taxed as partnerships to address recent federal legislative changes impacting all such entities.  Failure to amend now could result in unfavorable tax consequences.  Section 1101 of The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (the “BBA”) substantially changes how the Internal Revenue Service may conduct audits of flow through entities taxed as partnerships.  Due to the increased popularity of limited liability companies, most taxed as partnerships, the Internal Revenue Service has been chafing under the relatively restrictive rules governing audits found in the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (“TEFRA”).  The BBA eliminates many of the provisions of TEFRA that made IRS’ job of policing compliance by partnerships with the tax laws more difficult and replaces them with new centralized partnership audit rules, effective for returns filed for partnership tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. In order to implement the new rules, IRS has re-released proposed regulations on June 13, 2017 and has invited comments in anticipation of a hearing on the proposed regulations currently scheduled for September 18, 2017.  The proposed regulations were initially released on January 18, 2017, but were withdrawn on January 20, 2017 in light of the Trump Administration’s freeze on all new and proposed federal rule making.

As a result of BBA, and as fleshed out in the proposed regulations, the new partnership audit rules provide that, among other things:

  • Out with the TMP and in with the PR – There is no longer a “tax matters partner/member,” but, instead, partnerships must designate a “partnership representative,” who will have the sole authority to act on behalf of the partnership (including, under certain circumstances, to decide which partners will pay any deficiency) and who is not required to be a partner.  If the partnership fails to designate the partnership representative, the IRS will designate a partnership representative for it.
  • Partnership Itself May be the Taxpayer – Unless certain partnerships makes an election to “push out” additional taxes owed as a result of an audit to the audited (“reviewed”) year partners, such additional taxes will now be paid by the partnership;
  • Annual Election Out Available to Certain Partnerships – The new rules apply to all partnerships except for those that are both qualified to “elect out” (generally partnerships with under 100 partners, none of which can be a disregarded entity or another partnership), and which make an annual election that the new rules do not apply.

The significant changes brought about by the BBA and the proposed regulations (likely to become final in substantially similar form) require substantive amendments to governing documents of all entities taxed as partnerships to address these issues and others. Of note, Louisiana does not currently tax partnerships, as partnerships, and will have to adopt rules to adapt to the federal changes.  In the meantime, the January 1, 2018 effective date of the BBA is approaching. Thus, the time for providing notice and counsel to your clients is quickly running out.

  • This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Bar Associations Tax Law Committee Blog.

Louisiana

By William J. Kolarik, II

On April 25, 2017, State Representative Sam Jones requested that the Louisiana House Committee on Ways and Means voluntarily defer HB628, which would have imposed a commercial activity tax upon many business organizations doing business in Louisiana.  The Committee’s vote to voluntarily defer the bill means that the proposed commercial activity tax is likely dead for the 2017 legislative session.  The proposed commercial activity tax was the centerpiece of Louisiana Governor Edwards’ tax package and the deferral of the proposed bill means that Governor Edwards and Louisiana legislators will need to resolve Louisiana’s current budget crisis through other means.  The Kean Miller State and Local Tax team is reviewing proposed Louisiana tax legislation and will update its blog when our review is complete.

la house of reps

By William J. Kolarik, II

On April 17, 2017, the legislation that composes the centerpiece of Governor Edwards’ proposed tax reforms was filed in the Louisiana House of Representatives.  House Bill 628, introduced by state Rep. Sam Jones, contains the legislation that would establish the commercial activity tax.  The Kean Miller State and Local Tax team is reviewing the proposed legislation and will update its summary of the proposed Louisiana tax reform package after our review is complete.

 

lsc

By Jaye A. Calhoun, Jason R. Brown, and William J. Kolarik, II

On March 29, 2017, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards released the broad outlines of his Louisiana tax reform proposal (the “Tax Reform Proposal”), which he promoted as a comprehensive plan to stabilize Louisiana’s budget and avoid future mid-year budget cuts. The Governor’s plan includes individual income tax, sales and use tax, corporate tax, and tax expenditure proposals designed to, if enacted, replace the revenue generated by the “fifth-penny” of sales and use tax (that expires in 2018) and generate revenue to sustain Louisiana’s current budget structure. Governor Edwards announced the proposal alongside Kimberly Robinson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, during a press conference at the Louisiana State Capitol. And, while he did not provide a draft of legislation proposed to implement the tax plan or discuss many specific details, he did provide an overview of the Tax Proposal.

The Governor made an effort to tie the Tax Reform Proposal to the Final Report issued January 27, 2017, by the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy (the “Task Force”), but many who have studied the report were unconvinced. Indeed, while some of the sales tax changes were discussed in the Final Report, the commercial activity tax, the most significant and controversial aspect of the Governor’s tax reform proposal did not appear in the Task Force’s Final Report. An overview of the Governor’s Tax Reform Proposal follows.

Corporate Tax Proposals

The Governor’s plan would implement a number of changes impacting corporate taxpayers, including: (1) phasing out the corporation franchise tax; (2) repealing the corporation income tax deduction for federal income taxes; (3) reducing the corporation income tax rate; and (4) enacting a commercial activity tax (i.e., a gross receipts tax). Essentially, the Governor proposes to eliminate the franchise tax, over time, and retain the corporation income tax, but also impose a gross receipts tax to serve as a type of alternative minimum tax. Until the franchise tax is phased out, a corporate taxpayer would compute its liability under all three taxes, but would only owe franchise taxes and the greater of the corporation income or the commercial activity tax.

Phase-Out of the Corporation Franchise Tax

Under the Tax Reform Proposal, the corporation franchise tax would be phased out over a ten-year period. The Governor did not provide specifics on the phase-out but, presumably, it would occur in equally incremental annual reductions over a ten-year period. The Governor Edwards was unsure of the cost of phasing-out the franchise tax. The effective date of this reform was not specifically mentioned, but, because it was discussed in conjunction with the proposed commercial activity tax (discussed below), the Edwards Administration is likely considering beginning the phase-out in the 2019 franchise tax year (2018 filing period).

Repealing the Federal Income Tax Deduction

Currently, corporate income tax filers may deduct their federal income taxes paid when computing their Louisiana taxable income. Because the federal income tax deduction is constitutionally protected, repealing the deduction requires passage of a constitutional amendment supported by (a simple majority of) voters. Governor Edwards indicated at his press conference that the reduced corporate income tax rates, discussed below, would be contingent upon passage of such a constitutional amendment.

In 2016, the Governor proposed to collapse the tiered corporation income tax brackets into a flat six-and-one-half-percent (6.5%) corporate income tax rate to help resolve the 2016 budget shortfall. That proposal was similarly contingent upon the repeal of the federal income tax deduction through a constitutional amendment, which Louisiana voters rejected by a fifty-six to forty-four percent (56-44%) margin. Governor Edwards did not indicate at his press conference when the proposed constitutional amendment would be put to voters, but the most likely date would be November, 2017.

Reducing the Corporation Income Tax Rate

The Tax Reform Proposal would reduce the number of corporate income tax brackets from five (5) to three (3) and would reduce the corporation income tax rate upon repeal (via constitutional amendment) of the federal income tax deduction. Currently, Louisiana has five corporate income tax brackets – four percent (4%), five percent (5%), six percent (6%), seven percent (7%), and eight percent (8%). The Tax Reform Proposal would reduce the number of corporation income tax brackets to three (3) brackets at three percent (3%), five percent (5%), and seven percent (7%).

The Commercial Activity Tax

The Governor suggested that enacting a commercial activity tax would offset the costs of allowing the fifth-penny (of sales and use tax, discussed below) to expire on schedule, reducing the corporate and individual income tax rates, and phasing-out the franchise tax. The Governor did not provide many details of the proposed commercial activity tax, but did indicate that the tax was modeled upon similar taxes in use by other states. Based on the details released by the Governor and information provided by Secretary Robinson in meetings with trade groups around the state, it appears that the commercial activity tax would be similar to the commercial activity tax levied by the state of Ohio.

The commercial activity tax would be assessed upon any legal entity doing business in Louisiana. The tax base would be the entity’s gross receipts after deductions for (1) cash discounts allowed and taken; and (2) returns and allowances that are attributable to Louisiana. The proposed tax rate is thirty-five hundredths of one percent (0.35%).

The proposed commercial activity tax would apply as follows:

Entities subject to tax Entities exempt from tax
Partnerships Non-profit organizations
Limited liability companies Governmental entities
Limited liability partnerships Certain public utilities
Corporations Certain financial institutions
Subchapter S corporations Certain insurance companies
Joint ventures Businesses with $1.5 million or less of taxable gross receipts
Disregarded entities

While not specifically stated, it appears that sole proprietorships would also be subject to the commercial activity tax.

The proposed tax would apply at the full rate to businesses with $1.5 million or more in gross receipts.[1] All other businesses would be subject to a minimum commercial activity tax. The proposed minimum tax rates and commercial activity tax computation follow:

Taxable Gross Receipts Minimum Commercial Activity Tax Commercial Activity Tax
Less than $500K $250 No additional tax due
$500K – $1M $500 No additional tax due
$1M-$1.5M $750 No additional tax due
$1.5M to $3M N/A (0.35% x Taxable Gross Receipts) – [5,250 x ($3M – Taxable Gross Receipts)/$1.5M]
Greater than $3M N/A 0.35% x Taxable Gross Receipts

As noted above, the proposed commercial activity tax would only apply to gross receipts attributable to Louisiana. According to the proposal, the determination of gross receipts attributable to Louisiana would be identical to the determination of the numerator of the Louisiana sales apportionment ratio (for purposes of calculating the corporation income tax). The Tax Reform Proposal notes that gross receipts attributable to Louisiana would include:

  1. Gross rents attributed to real property located in Louisiana;
  2. Gross royalties from real property located in Louisiana;
  3. Gross receipts from the sales of tangible personal property received by the purchaser in Louisiana;
  4. Gross receipts from the sales of all other services if the purchaser or recipient of the service receives the benefit in Louisiana.

Because the determination of gross receipts attributable to Louisiana would be identical to the determination of the numerator of the Louisiana sales apportionment ratio, it appears the guidance related to sourcing sales for Louisiana corporation income tax purposes would also apply to the commercial activity tax.

For a corporation or a limited liability company that has elected to be taxed as a corporation, the commercial activity tax would function similar to an alternative minimum tax. For those taxpayers, the amount of tax liability would be the greater of: (1) the minimum commercial activity tax; (2) the commercial activity tax; or (3) the net corporation income tax due after the application of all credit carryforwards, nonrefundable credits, and (available) refundable credits. For a pass-through entity that is not subject to the corporation income tax with more than $1.5M in taxable gross receipts, the amount of tax liability would be the greater of: (1) the top-tier minimum commercial activity tax (i.e.,$750); or (2) the commercial activity tax.

Governor Edwards also noted that the administration intends to present an additional plan that would mitigate the impact of the commercial activity tax on low-margin businesses. The Governor did not provide specific details on the low-margin business plan, but he indicated that it would create a separate calculation designed to ensure that a business does not pay more than its “fair share.” The Governor did not indicate when he would provide details on his low-margin business plan.

The commercial activity tax proposal is projected to raise approximately $800-900M in revenue, which taken together with the other tax reforms would replace the revenue from the expiring fifth penny. Because the commercial activity tax is intended to replace the revenue from the expiring fifth penny, the proposed effective date is July 1, 2018.

Tax Expenditure Proposals

The Tax Reform Proposal would make permanent the temporary reductions to certain credits and incentives enacted in 2015 and currently set to expire in 2018. The proposal would also allow certain credits and incentives to sunset or expire as scheduled. The reductions to credits and incentives are expected to raise $192.5M in revenue based on fiscal notes from other legislative sessions.

While the tax reform proposal does not discuss specific credits and incentives, legislation enacted in 2015 reduced several corporate income and franchise tax credits for tax returns filed on or after July 1, 2015, and before June 30, 2018. The reduced tax credits included the jobs credit, the corporation income tax credit and credits paid by economic development corporations, regardless of the taxable year to which the return relates.

During the press conference, there was no substantive discussion of the tax expenditure proposals, but the Governor did note that he anticipated changes to the motion picture tax credit in the future. Specifically, Governor Edwards indicated a desire to replace the $180 million/year cap on motion picture tax credit payments with a $180 million/year cap on motion picture tax credits granted. The intention of this proposal is to align the granting and payment of motion picture tax credits so that credits are paid in the same year they are issued. The Governor indicated these changes to the motion picture tax credit would likely be phased-in over time. In informal meetings, Secretary Robinson has suggested that some of the 2015 and 2016 cuts would likely be made permanent.

Sales and Use Tax Proposals

The Governor’s Tax Reform Proposal contains three substantial sales and use tax proposals: (1) removing the “fifth-penny” enacted in 2016; (2) “cleaning” the two remaining “dirty pennies”; and (3) broadening the sales and use tax base to include certain services.

For those unfamiliar with Louisiana’s current state sales and use tax regime, currently, the cumulative state sales and use tax rate is five-percent(5%) and consists of the following components:

  1. The “basic rate” (two percent (2%));[2]
  2. Additional tax (one percent (1%));[3]
  3. Additional tax (ninety-seven hundredths of one percent (0.97%));[4]
  4. Louisiana Tourism Promotion District Tax (three-hundredths of one percent 0.03%);[5] and
  5. Effective for the period April 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018, a one percent (1%) additional tax, referred to as the “fifth-penny”.[6]

At present, Louisiana only levies the sales and use tax on the sale of eight specific services, including, notably, repair and maintenance services and the furnishing of hotel rooms. In addition, the current Louisiana sales and use tax regime contains approximately two hundred (200) sales and use tax exclusions and exemptions. But many of those exemptions and exclusions only apply to the two-percent (2%) basic rate. Those portions of the overall state sales and use tax rate to which all exemptions and exclusions apply do not apply are often referred to as “clean pennies,” although that term is misleading since many exemptions and exclusions still apply.

Removing the Fifth-Penny

To resolve the most recent Louisiana budget shortfall, in 2016, the Louisiana Legislature enacted “La. R.S. Sec. 47:321.1, which increased the cumulative state sales and use tax rate from four percent (4%) to five percent (5%). The so-called fifth-penny is currently set to expire on June 30, 2018. The tax reform proposal would allow the fifth-penny expire, as scheduled, at a cost of approximately $880 million.

“Cleaning” the Two Pennies That Comprise the Basic Rate

As noted above, the two pennies that compose the basic rate are subject to approximately 200 exclusions and exemptions. Governor Edwards’ Tax Reform Proposal would “clean” those two pennies, such that the exemptions and exclusions that apply to those pennies would be identical to those that apply to the other two pennies (that comprise the remainder of the full four percent (4%) sales and use tax rate, after the fifth-penny expires).

As a result of this proposal, certain Louisiana businesses may see an increase in the sales tax they pay on utilities and other business inputs. However, Governor Edwards hinted that certain business inputs, such as utilities used to power manufacturing equipment and related facilities, may remain exempt from the two percent (2%) basic rate. He also indicated that sales and use tax would be imposed upon certain manufacturing machinery and equipment, but that a new rebate may be available for taxes paid on those purchases. Finally, the Governor noted that existing agricultural exemptions and exclusions would be retained.

Cleaning the two “dirty pennies” is projected to raise approximately $180 million in revenue. The permanent repeal of certain sales and use tax exclusions and exemptions to the two pennies would be effective October 1, 2017.

Broadening the Sales and Use Tax Base to Include Additional Services

The Tax Reform Proposal would expand the sales and use tax base by subjecting additional services to tax. According to Governor Edwards, this aspect of the proposal would expand the sales and use tax to services currently taxed in Texas (with the exception of internet access fees). Services currently taxed in Texas that are not subject to tax in Louisiana include cable and satellite television services; credit reporting services; data processing services; information services; insurance services; non-residential real property repair, restoration, or remodeling services; real property services; and security services.

Similar to cleaning the two pennies that compose the basic rate, this expansion of the sales tax base has the potential to levy sales and use tax on certain business inputs, particularly real property and non-residential real property repair services, data processing services, and information services. According to Governor Edwards, expanding the sales tax base to include additional services is expected to generate approximately $200 million in revenue and would be effective October 1, 2017.

 Individual Income Tax Proposals

The Tax Reform Proposal would reduce Louisiana’s individual income tax rates for each of the three tax brackets from two percent (2%), four percent (4%), and six percent (6%) to one percent (1%), three percent (3%), and five percent (5%). However, like the corporation income tax proposal (described above), the reduction in individual income tax rates would be contingent upon Louisiana voters passing a constitutional amendment that would repeal the deduction for federal income taxes paid by the individual. According to Governor Edwards, this part of the proposal would cost the state approximately $42 million in revenue and would reduce the individual income tax liability for ninety-percent (90%) of filers. Nevertheless, Governor Edwards also noted that the inability to deduct federal income taxes would likely increase the Louisiana tax liability for individuals with incomes greater than $140,000.

It is not certain whether voters will approve a constitutional amendment to repeal the federal income tax deduction. As discussed above, in 2016, the last time such a change was put to the voters, the proposed constitutional amendment was handily rejected. Governor Edwards did not indicate when the proposed constitutional amendment would be put to voters but the likely date is November, 2017.

Going Forward

As with any legislative proposal, the “devil is in the details.” While the Governor announced at his press conference the broad outlines of his Tax Reform Proposal, detailed legislation has yet to be filed. Though non-fiscal bills must be pre-filed by March 31, 2017, the deadline for filing fiscal-related bills is April 18, 2017. Though it is likely one or more members of the Louisiana House of Representatives will author and introduce the Governor’s Tax Reform Proposal as a bill prior to the April 11, 2017 convening of the 2017 Regular Session, it is unclear at this time when that bill will be filed.

Implications

As noted above, the Edwards Administration did not provide copies of draft legislation or extensive details on the proposed tax reform package. Therefore, the implications of the proposal are not entirely clear. Nevertheless, it is possible to speculate on some of the most significant potential impacts of the tax reform proposal.

Implications of the Corporate Tax Proposals

The Edwards Administration, citing the Louisiana Department of Revenue, stated that, in 2015, there were 149,000 corporate tax filers in the state and that 129,000 of those filers paid no taxes to the state of Louisiana.[7] According the Governor Edwards, the commercial activity tax is designed to ensure that those 129,000 taxpayers with no corporate income tax liability pay their fair share. What the Edwards Administration did not discuss is the reason why certain taxpayers had no corporate income tax liability.

Due to the slump in the oil and gas industry and other factors, many corporate income tax filers are likely in net operating loss positions. Under the proposed tax reform package, those taxpayers would now pay the greater of: (1) the minimum commercial activity tax; (2) the commercial activity tax; or (3) the net corporation income tax due. It appears this proposal would allow the net operating losses of certain taxpayers, which are reflected as deferred tax assets on their financial statements, to expire unused. The expiration of net operating losses (or the proposed decrease in the tax rate) could reduce the value of deferred tax assets and immediately reduce a taxpayer’s earnings for financial statement purposes. A taxpayer with significant deferred tax assets should model the potential financial statement consequences of the proposed corporate tax reforms and determine the extent to which those consequences may impact its operations.

In addition, there is significant uncertainty in Louisiana about how the Department of Revenue will apply recent changes to the recently-enacted market-based corporate income tax sourcing rules for services. In October 2016, the Department issued proposed regulations related to the new market-based sourcing rules but, as of this writing, it has yet to issue final regulations. Therefore, it is not clear how gross receipts from services will be sourced for purposes of the proposed commercial activity tax.

The proposed commercial activity tax appears to rely on Louisiana’s ultimate destination rule for sourcing sales of services. Strict application of this rule would appear to benefit a corporate income taxpayer that manufactures goods in Louisiana for out-of-state export. In contrast, goods imported into the state for consumption, may be subject to multiple levels of the commercial activity tax. As a result, the proposed tax reforms appear to reallocate the tax burden among industry sectors. When modeling the proposed corporate tax reforms, a taxpayer should carefully consider its supply chain and whether its business inputs may bear one or more levels of commercial activity tax.

Finally, Ohio, upon which the proposed commercial activity tax appears to be modeled, attempts to mitigate commercial activity tax pyramiding by permitting certain related parties to eliminate intercompany transactions. The Tax Reform Proposal gives no indication that Louisiana intends to provide similar relief. Therefore, a taxpayer should assume that any intercompany transactions it engages in may be subject to commercial activity tax. This may result in a significant impact on certain supply chain structures, such as centralized procurement companies, leasing companies, and the reliance on other related parties.[8]

Implications of the Sales and Use Tax Proposals

As noted above, the proposed sales and use tax reforms have the potential to result in the taxation of a substantial amount of business inputs. The taxation of business inputs has the potential to result in tax pyramiding and may adversely impact certain business that cannot pass the cost of the tax through to consumers. Louisiana taxpayers should review the sales and use tax exemptions and exclusions that they rely upon and determine whether the tax reform proposal with repeal those exemptions and exclusions. In addition, a service industry taxpayer should determine whether the services it provides would be subject to tax under Texas sales and use tax law and, if so, how the proposed taxation of services, to be based on the Texas model, would affect their Louisiana business. Affected taxpayers may also want to consider whether they should be proactive and become involved in the legislative process at this time.

It should also be noted that the Governor did not propose streamlining the sales and use tax laws, or taking other action to make the laws more uniform, such as centralized collection for the state and its localities. Therefore, it does not appear that the proposals will remedy some of the most onerous features of the current Louisiana sales and use tax regime.

Implications of Considering Both the Corporate and Sales and Use Tax Proposals Together

At a minimum, the Governor’s proposals create significant additional compliance burdens for some taxpayers. Further, commercial activity taxes are sometimes referred to as “turnover taxes” because the tax burden is imposed on revenues generated by all transactions preceding the ultimate sale to the consumer. Turnover taxes tend to increase the costs of goods and services for businesses which, in turn, increases the cost of goods and services to consumers, and presumably sales and use tax collections on the final sales. As a result, the Governor’s commercial activity tax has the potential to make it more expensive to do business in Louisiana with whatever correlative impact that may have on economic development. Nevertheless, much is still unknown about the Governor’s plan. The Kean Miller State and Local Tax Team will provide additional information when more is known.

For questions or additional information, please contact: Christopher J. Dicharry at (225) 382-3492, Jaye Calhoun at (504) 293-5936, Phyllis Sims at (225) 389-3717, Jason Brown at (225) 389-3733, Angela Adolph at (225) 382-3437, or Willie Kolarik at (225) 382-3441.

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[1] According to Governor Edwards, there are approximately 414,000 businesses in the state. Of those businesses, 389,000 “make less than $1.5 million annually” and “would be assessed a flat $250 tax, rather than the calculation for gross receipts.” Gov. Edwards Unveils Reforms to Stabilize Louisiana’s Budget.

[2] La. R.S. § 47:302.

[3] La. R.S. § 47:321.

[4] La. R.S. § 47:331.

[5] La. R.S. § 51:1286.

[6] La. R.S. § 47:321.1.

[7] Gov. Edwards Unveils Reforms to Stabilize Louisiana’s Budget.

[8] When modeling the impact of intercompany transactions, a taxpayer should also consider whether the purchaser is located in a foreign trade zone because, under current corporation income tax sourcing rules, a taxpayer selling corporeal movable property to a customer who receives the property in a foreign trade zone may exclude the sales from the numerator of its sales factor.

liquor-bottles

By Jill Gautreaux

The City of New Orleans (“the City”) has amended and re-enacted a gallonage tax on alcoholic beverages of low and high alcoholic content. A “gallonage tax” is a tax on alcoholic beverages based upon the amount, calculated in gallons, of alcoholic beverages sold. The current ordinance became effective on January 1, 2017, but industry members have sought to enjoin the implementation of this “new” tax. The ordinance closely follows the wording of the State gallonage tax statutes, which causes the tax to apply to wholesalers or Louisiana manufacturers because they are the first parties to come into possession of the alcoholic beverages in the State of Louisiana. The City ordinance does not have the effect that it apparently intended, and is worded as follows:

Section 10-511 – Who is liable for tax.

The taxes levied in sections 10-501 and 10-502 of this division shall be collected, as far as practicable, from the dealer who first handles the alcoholic beverages in the city. If for any reason the dealer who first handled the taxable alcoholic beverages has escaped payment of the taxes, those taxes shall be collected from any dealer in whose hands the taxable beverages are found.

On February 9, 2017, the City Council introduced an ordinance to amend Section 10-511, which qualified the word “dealer” in the first sentence and the first phrase of the second sentence with “wholesale”. Nevertheless, according to the current wording of the ordinance, if the wholesale dealer has “escaped” the tax, the retailer will be responsible for paying the tax to the City.

There is a strong likelihood that New Orleans alcoholic beverage retailers will end up having to pay some of this tax if the ordinance is enacted and enforced as currently written. Several large wholesale companies, including Southern Glazers, Southern Eagle, and Republic, do not have any physical presence within the City of New Orleans, and therefore should not be subject to the tax.

A few trade organizations have challenged the enforceability of the ordinance in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. The plaintiffs were successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order, but were denied a preliminary injunction. The temporary restraining order has lapsed, but, as of this date, the City has indicated that it will not collect the tax until the litigation has concluded. One City official has suggested that if the City prevails, that the tax due will be retroactive to January 1, 2017.