In 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.
Earlier this year, the Idaho Supreme Court, in Noell Industries, Inc. v. Idaho State Tax Comm’n, --- P.3d ---- (2020), ruled that gain from the sale of membership interests in a limited liability company that had business operations in Idaho by a taxpayer domiciled outside of Idaho was not business income. As a result, the gain was not taxable in Idaho.
The court, in a 3-2 decision, upheld the district court’s reversal of the Idaho Tax Commission’s determination to tax the income. The sharks were circling the taxpayer, ready to attack, but the majority of the justices on the Idaho Supreme Court intervened, saving the taxpayer from a savage death (or at least a boatload of taxes).
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.
During 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.
As we reported last week, the Oregon Department of Revenue (“DOR”) scheduled a public hearing on June 23, 2020 to discuss the second set of temporary administrative rules relative to the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”) that it intends to make permanent. The show (held telephonically) occurred as scheduled. Peter Evalds from our firm attended the hearing. A summary of the key comments and concerns raised by attendees from the business and tax community, as well as our own guidance with respect to the rules, is set forth below.
The Oregon Department of Revenue (“DOR”) announced that it will be conducting a public hearing on June 23, 2020 to discuss a second set of temporary administrative rules relative to the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”) that it intends to make permanent.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hearing will be held telephonically. The conference call will commence at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on June 23, 2020.
In a new temporary rule, the Oregon Department of Revenue (“DOR”) formalized its prior informal guidance relative to the assessment of penalties for failing to make sufficient estimated payments under Oregon’s Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”). The temporary rule provides some relief to CAT taxpayers whose businesses are adversely affected by COVID-19.
Pursuant to ORS 317A.137(2), a taxpayer must make estimated quarterly CAT payments. As discussed previously, ORS 317A.161(2) imposes a penalty on taxpayers who fail to make estimated payments equal to at least 80 percent of their CAT liability for any quarter during 2020.
The DOR announced in April that it would not assess penalties against a taxpayer for failure to make estimated CAT payments during 2020 if the taxpayer did not have the financial ability to make the estimated payments. The DOR further stated that it would honor a taxpayer’s good faith compliance efforts if the taxpayer documents those efforts.
Unfortunately, the DOR pronouncement about penalty abatement was contained in an email blast. Consequently, many taxpayers and tax practitioners were concerned about whether such an informal announcement could be relied upon, what actually constitutes “good faith compliance efforts” and how to document the efforts.
Today, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders issued by the governors of most states, many employees are working remotely from home for their employers. In fact, for many employers and employees, the arrangement is working well enough that they will likely consider continuing the arrangement, on a full-time or part-time basis, when the stay-at-home orders are lifted. This type of arrangement raises all kinds of issues and concerns for employers, including compliance with applicable laws. Many of the issues are obvious, but some of them are more nuanced and may not be on the minds of employers.
Employees Working Remotely
The trap is set when an employer has an employee performing services outside of the state(s) where it operates. Historically, this scenario was likely rare. It probably only occurred when an employer was physically located near a state border and had an employee working from his or her home located in the neighboring state. Today, with the internet and sophisticated communication technologies, it is not limited to employees residing in neighboring states. Further, with the COVID-19 pandemic facing the world, more and more employees are working remotely. Assuming a remote work arrangement is acceptable to both an employer and an employee, I suspect it will continue to be a prevalent employment arrangement post-COVID-19. As a result, employers may find themselves with employees working in states, and possibly countries, different from where the employer has its business physically located. As discussed below, it is vital that employers know where their employers are performing services. The consequences of not knowing where your employees are working could be costly.
As we recently reported, the Oregon Department of Revenue (“ODOR”) issued written guidance concluding that the receipt of funds pursuant to PPP loans (whether or not forgiven), EIDLP advances and SBA debt relief for certain business loans do not constitute commercial activity under Oregon’s new gross receipts tax, the Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”). Accordingly, taxpayers subject to the CAT do not include these items in their computation of commercial activity.
Washington state enacted its Business and Occupations Tax (“B&O Tax”) almost 90 years ago. The B&O Tax, like the CAT, is a gross receipts tax. Unlike the CAT, however, taxpayers subject to the B&O Tax are generally not allowed to deduct any of their costs, including materials and labor, from gross revenues.
The Washington Department of Revenue (“WDOR”) issued written guidance last week, possibly joining the ranks with the ODOR. Better late than never!
The WDOR concludes that taxpayers subject to the B&O Tax should not include the receipt of funds pursuant to COVID-19 relief programs for purposes of computing their tax liability under the B&O Tax regime.
New guidance from the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) with respect to Oregon’s Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”) was issued yesterday.
Specifically, the DOR announced that:
- Certain forgivable federal loans and advances, including Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans, are excluded from the definition of commercial activity under the CAT;
- The DOR is scheduling a public hearing to discuss the first set of permanent rules promulgated under the CAT; and
- The DOR released a draft temporary rule regarding the sourcing of commercial activity for financial institutions.
Larry J. Brant
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.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
- "A Good Look At The Limitations to Code Section 1031 and Other Possible Deferral Alternatives," OSCPA 2021 Annual Real Estate ConferenceVirtual Event, 6.9.21
- To be rescheduled