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Maryland State HouseLast week, we reported on Maryland’s new gross receipts tax on revenues derived from digital advertising services (the “Tax”), the first of its kind in the nation.  Affected taxpayers and tax practitioners alike can breathe a sigh of relief—the Tax will not apply to tax years beginning before 2022.  Additionally, the broadcast news industry secured a significant victory by obtaining an exclusion from the Tax.

OnionBackground

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government enacted three major pieces of legislation to provide financial relief to individuals and families.  The American Recovery Plan Act (“ARPA”), the most recent legislation, provides the third round of Economic Impact Payments (“EIPs”), also referred to as stimulus payments (and “recovery rebates” in the acts), to millions of Americans.

Digital adsMaryland recently enacted the nation’s first tax on digital advertising.  The new tax, the Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax (the “Tax”), became law on February 12, 2021. 

The Tax has been surrounded by controversy from the very moment it was introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates.  In fact, a lawsuit to prevent the Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland from enforcing the Tax was recently filed by a group of affected taxpayers.

cat jumpingOregon State Senator Fred Girod, a Republican from Stayton, Oregon (District 9), is sponsoring Senate Bill 787 ("SB 787").  If passed, SB 787 would repeal the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the "CAT").  So far, the bill does not appear to have much momentum behind it, but time will tell.

Cats have a "righting reflex," allowing them to twist in midair if they fall from a high place so that they can land upright on their feet.  Because of this uncanny ability to potentially avoid disaster, it is often said cats have nine lives.  Well, the CAT has avoided death in the Oregon Legislature already on a number of occasions.  The question is whether the CAT can avoid another attempt to repeal it once and for all.

Senator Girod is a strong advocate for making a quality college education affordable for all students.  He is not, however, a friend of the CAT.  SB 787 is aimed at killing the CAT.

GiftThe Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

In a bipartisan effort, H.R. 133-116th Congress: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021") overwhelmingly passed both the House and the Senate on December 21, 2020.  It is now on President Trump's desk awaiting his signature.   

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which spans almost 6,000 pages, once signed into law, will bring holiday cheer to many.  The new law includes a huge variety of provisions aimed at assisting individuals and businesses during this time of need.  One provision in particular is aimed at curing a wrong created by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") in Notice 2020-32.  

TeleworkIn the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, companies in wide-ranging industries across the country have unprecedented numbers of employees working from remote locations.  In a prior post, we discussed numerous issues that may arise from this new normal of teleworking, including tax, labor and employment, liability, and business registration implications. 

In this post, we drill down a bit further with respect to employers’ state tax reporting and payment obligations that may result from having employees working remotely in states other than where the employers maintain physical offices.  This is especially relevant in metropolitan areas that straddle multiple states, like here in Portland, Oregon.

Shot clockMore than six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and approximately four months since the IRS issued Notice 2020-32, it is looking increasingly likely that taxpayers will not be permitted to deduct business expenses funded with Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan proceeds that are ultimately forgiven.  It is terribly late in the game not to have finality on the issue, especially with the third quarter 2020 estimated tax payments due on September 15 (next week).     

Background

As we previously discussed, PPP loans authorized by the CARES Act may be forgivable, in whole or in part, if taxpayers use the proceeds for qualifying expenses (namely, payroll, benefits, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities).  Unlike other debt that is forgiven, PPP loan amounts forgiven pursuant to the CARES Act do not constitute cancellation of debt income.

Swimming poolOn August 8, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order, directing the U.S. Treasury to grant employers the ability to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of certain payroll taxes as further COVID-19 tax relief.  The deferral applies only to the employee portion of Social Security taxes and Railroad Retirement taxes (i.e., 6.2 percent of wages) required to be withheld and paid under Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Sections 3101(a) and 3201(a) from September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. 

PRACTICE ALERT:  The deferral does not apply to required employee Medicare tax withholdings under Code Section 3101(b) (either the standard 1.45 percent on all wages or the additional 0.9 percent tax on wages in excess of $200,000).  Further, the deferral is not available for the employer’s share of Social Security (6.2 percent) or Medicare (1.45 percent) taxes.

IRS NOTICE 2020-65

On August 28, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-65, providing guidance relative to the president’s executive order.  It provides answers to several important questions.

Notice 2020-65 defines employers required to withhold and pay Social Security and Railroad Retirement taxes as “Affected Taxpayers.”  It goes on to provide that the due date for withholding and payment of the employee portion of Social Security taxes and Railroad Retirement taxes for the period September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 is postponed until the period commencing January 1, 2021 through April 30, 2021. 

During the first special session of 2020, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 4212 (“HB 4212”).  Governor Kate Brown (the “Governor”) signed HB 4212 into law on June 30, 2020. 

HB 4212 extends the time periods that apply to court proceedings, including those in the Oregon Tax Court (“Tax Court”), to provide relief to litigants who may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 21, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court (the “Chief Justice”) issued Order No. 20-027 (the “Order”) to facilitate the implementation of HB 4212.  In this post, we address the impact that HB 4212 and the Order may have on Tax Court cases.

Taxpayers with cases pending in either the magistrate or regular division of the Tax Court may be able to utilize these extended time periods.  Additionally, taxpayers may still have the ability to initiate or continue Tax Court proceedings if they missed the time period for doing so originally, including appealing adverse determinations to the magistrate division, regular division, or even the Oregon Supreme Court.

CatDuring the special session, the Oregon legislature passed House Bill 4202 (“HB 4202”), which Governor Kate Brown signed into law on June 30, 2020.  The legislation, which makes several technical and policy changes to the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”), becomes effective on September 25, 2020.

The Oregon Legislative Revenue Office estimates that the modifications to the CAT resulting from HB 4202 will cost the state approximately $500,000 per year in lost tax revenue for each of the next six years.  The CAT was projected to raise approximately $1 billion per year in tax revenue.  Consequently, assuming these projections turn out to be accurate, the revenue losses attributable to HB 4202 should amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

HB 4202 brings good news to farmers and provides some clarity for a small subset of Oregon taxpayers.  Unfortunately, the legislature did not repeal the CAT, and our lawmakers’ curiosity was not enough to cause them to look closely at the law and make the monumental changes that many taxpayers have been pleading for these past months.

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Larry J. Brant
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Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in 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.

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