The Timely Filing Requirement Imposed by Oregon DOR in Order for Taxpayers to be Able to use the "Prior Year Tax Safe Harbor" Stricken by the Oregon Tax Court
On September 13, 2013, in Finley v. Oregon Department of Revenue, the Oregon Tax Court granted taxpayer’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and held Oregon Administrative Rule 150-316.587(8)-(A) is invalid to the extent it requires taxpayers to have timely filed their prior year’s Oregon income tax return to be eligible for the “Prior Year Tax Safe Harbor.”
I represented the taxpayer in this matter. The facts were straightforward. The tax years at issue were 2008 and 2009. The taxpayer was a resident of Oregon during these years.
For tax year 2008, the taxpayer paid his taxes in a timely manner. Unfortunately, he filed his Oregon individual income tax return late.
For tax year 2009, the taxpayer had a substantial increase in his income due to a capital gain-generating transaction. To avoid an estimated tax payment penalty, on December 31, 2009, thinking he qualified for the “Prior Year Tax Safe Harbor,” he made an Oregon estimated tax payment of 100% of his 2008 Oregon income tax liability. Then, he timely filed his 2009 Oregon income tax return, and he paid the additional taxes shown due on the return. Thereafter, the Oregon Department of Revenue sent the taxpayer a nice letter, thanking him for his generous tax payment, but requesting he pay an additional large sum, representing an estimated tax (late payment) penalty. Not being able to resolve the matter with the Department, we filed a complaint in the Oregon Tax Court. The case was ultimately heard by Judge Henry Breithaupt in the Regular Division of the Oregon Tax Court.
Faris Fink, Commissioner of the Small Business/Self-Employed Division of the Internal Revenue Service, announced at the AICPA National Tax Conference on November 5, 2013, that his division is moving its audit focus from corporations to pass-through entities (i.e., S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships).
Fink was candid when he said his employees do not currently have the skills and knowledge to conduct these examinations. In anticipation of its new focus, however, the Service is developing pass-through entity examination strategies and is training its audit staff to conduct the exams. Practitioners should expect to see significantly more pass-through entity examinations in 2014. One would suspect these examinations, especially early on, will be challenging for taxpayers and their advisors.
Looks Like Oregon Tax Laws are Changing Again
House Bill 3601 A (“HB 3601”) passed the Oregon House of Representatives and the Oregon Senate on October 2, 2013, during a special session. Governor Kitzhaber signed the bill into law on October 8, 2013. The new law is effective January 1, 2014. This is good news for some Oregon taxpayers and bad news for others.
The most significant impact of HB 3601 is found in six provisions, namely:
I. Corporate Excise Tax Rates. The corporate excise tax rates are increased. Effective for tax years beginning in 2013 or later, a 6.6% tax rate applies to the first $1,000,000 of taxable income and a tax rate of 7.6% applies to any excess taxable income. Under current law, the 6.6% tax rate applies to the first $10,000,000 of taxable income and the 7.6% tax rate applies to any excess taxable income. This change in current law represents a substantial increase in tax for many corporate taxpayers.
II. IC-DISCs. Except as expressly provided by Oregon law, DISCs are taxed in Oregon like corporations. ORS 317.635(1). HB 3601 exempts existing Interest Charge DISCs (i.e., IC-DISCs formed on or before the effective date of the act) from the Oregon corporate minimum tax under ORS 317.090. HB 3601 also causes any commissions received by DISCs to be taxed at 2.5%, and allows a deduction for commission payments made to existing DISCs.
III. Dividends Received from DISCs. HB 3601 allows a personal income taxpayer to subtract from income any dividend received from a DISC formed under IRC § 992.
IV. Personal Exemption Phase-Out. HB 3601 denies personal income taxpayers from claiming the personal exemption credit(s) (current $90 per exemption) if federal adjusted gross income is $100,000 or more for a single taxpayer and $200,000 or more for a married filing joint taxpayer.
V. Senior Health Care Costs. HB 3601 provides a small deduction for “senior” health care expenses not compensated by insurance. The bill, however, adds a phase-out for taxpayers with federal adjusted gross income over certain thresholds. Likewise, the definition of a “senior” starts out at age 62 for the 2013 tax year and increases each year thereafter by one year until tax year 2020.
VI. Reduced Tax Rates for Applicable Non-passive Income. For tax years beginning in 2015 or later, applicable non-passive income attributable to certain partnerships and S corporations will be taxed as follows:
Larry J. Brant
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder and the Chair of the Tax & Benefits practice group at Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.