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Salem, OregonIn 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. 

Background

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.

Background

TigerAs 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.

Recent Announcements

The Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) has made several recent announcements regarding Oregon’s new Commercial Activity Tax (the “CAT”).

In an email dated December 4, 2019, the Department said it anticipated sharing initial drafts of the first batch of temporary administrative rules on its website in December 2019.

In the same email, the Department also announced that some issues will not be addressed in its rules. For example, the Department has determined that there is no way to provide guidance with respect to how businesses may properly estimate the amount of CAT liability attributable to particular transactions. The Department goes on to tell us, however, that many frequently asked questions will be addressed in forms, instructions, publications and/or FAQs on the Department’s website.

Importantly, the Department has made it clear that the CAT “does not prohibit any business subject to the CAT from passing the tax along to its customers.”

PhoneIn recent months, we have written extensively about Oregon’s new Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”).  As discussed in our last post, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) recently announced that it would hold a dial-in meeting to solicit input regarding the Department’s rulemaking process from stakeholders located out of state or who otherwise could not attend the town hall meetings.  Peter Evalds attended the telephone meeting, which was held on Friday, October 25, 2019. 

This post continues our coverage of the CAT with an overview of new information we learned during the call.  This post also addresses questions and answers that the Department recently uploaded to the Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) section of its CAT website.

We have written at length about Oregon’s new Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”). As discussed in our last post, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) recently concluded a series of 12 town hall meetings around the state to solicit input from stakeholders regarding the Department’s rulemaking process.

As we talked about in our last post, the Department stated at the Portland town hall meeting its plan to conduct additional dial-in meetings for people who are located out of state or who otherwise could not attend the town hall meetings.

St. Johns Bridge - Portland, OregonWe have been covering Oregon’s new Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”) over the past few months.  As previously discussed, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) has been conducting town hall meetings with stakeholders across Oregon.  The last meeting was held in Salem on October 4, 2019. 

In this post, we continue our coverage of the CAT with a discussion of the Department’s town hall meeting that Peter Evalds attended in Portland, Oregon on October 3, 2019.  We address significant issues discussed at the Portland meeting that were not discussed at the Beaverton meeting we covered a few weeks ago.

What We Learned from one of the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Town Hall Meetings

Over the past few months, we have written extensively on the blog about Oregon’s new Corporate Activity Tax (the “CAT”). As announced in our last post, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) is in the process of conducting town hall meetings with stakeholders across Oregon. Peter Evalds attended the Department’s town hall meeting in Beaverton, Oregon on Thursday, September 19, 2019. In this post, we highlight some of the more significant issues that were discussed at that meeting.

CATWe have recently discussed in several blog posts Oregon’s new Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”), a gross receipts tax that will become effective January 1, 2020. As we announced in our most recent post on this topic, the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) will soon commence the rule drafting process. In order to obtain input from taxpayers and tax advisors, it will hold town hall meetings around the state.

Yesterday, the Department announced the schedule of these meetings. Surprisingly, the first meeting is scheduled for tonight in Newport, and meetings will take place later this week in Corvallis and Beaverton. Additional meetings throughout the state will occur over the next few weeks. The meeting in Portland will take place at the Portland State Office Building in the Lloyd District on Thursday, October 3, 2019, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

Big CATAs discussed in recent blog posts, the Oregon Legislative Assembly recently enacted a Corporate Activity Tax (“CAT”). Governor Kate Brown signed the legislation into law, effective January 1, 2020. Put in simplest terms, the CAT is a gross receipts tax on businesses with greater than $1 million of “commercial activity sourced to this state.”

Given the broadness of the new law and the many anticipated difficulties that taxpayers, tax advisors and the government will likely encounter determining what constitutes “commercial activity sourced to this state,” the need for the Oregon Department of Revenue (the “Department”) to adopt administrative rules on the new law is evident.

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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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