Oregon 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.
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.
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.
As previously reported, the new Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”) went into effect on January 1, 2020. The new law is quite complex and arguably not very well thought out by lawmakers. Although the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) has worked hard to bring clarity to the CAT through rulemaking, many questions remain, including application of the many exemptions and computation of the required tax estimates. Despite pleas by small businesses to repeal or at least put the CAT in hibernation until the uncertainties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have been alleviated, both Oregon’s Governor and the state’s lawmakers have proclaimed in so many words that the show must go on – the CAT will remain in place, even during these horrific times.
I hope our readers, their families and co-workers are safe and remain healthy during these trying times. As a distraction for tax geeks like us from the news about the Coronavirus that is permeating our lives these days, Peter and I decided to present more coverage on the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”).
On March 6, 2020, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) published two new temporary rules that it had previously presented in draft form. While the rules are substantively the same as they were in draft form, there are several nuances worthy of discussion.
Temporary Rules Keep Rolling in
The Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) recently issued four new temporary rules relative to the Oregon Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”). The new rules went into effect on February 1, 2020.
The new temporary rules provide much needed guidance with respect to three notable exclusions from the fangs of the CAT, namely the Grocery Exclusion, the Wholesale Exclusion and the Vehicle Exclusion.
The CAT Tour
As previously discussed, late last year, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) conducted several town hall meetings with taxpayers and tax practitioners across the state to discuss the Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”), answer questions and solicit feedback about administration of the new tax regime. I am happy to report that the Department is hitting the road again!
The Department announced on February 6 that it will be hosting another series of meetings across the state next month. The meetings are aimed at providing information to and answering the questions of taxpayers and tax professionals about the CAT and the newly issued administrative rules.
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.