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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.

Explosion - Oregon gross receipts taxFor more than a year, I have been discussing the potential that Oregon lawmakers will pass a corporate gross receipts tax. On May 26, 2017, we discussed recent events that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the dream of a corporate gross receipts tax was definitely alive and well in Oregon. In fact, the passage of it certainly appeared to be gaining steam in the legislature. Maybe that is not the case – at least for now.

Late yesterday, Oregon Democrats announced that they are abandoning any efforts to enact a corporate gross receipts tax this year as they have been unable to garner adequate legislative support to pass such a measure. Article IV, Section 25 of the Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths majority of all members elected to each house of the legislative assembly to pass bills for raising revenue and that the presiding officer of each respective house sign the bill or resolution. So, it appears a three-fifths vote in favor of a corporate receipts tax in each the house and the senate is not currently attainable.

State of OregonAfter Oregon Measure 97’s drubbing at the polls in November 2016, for many, it suggested the quashing of any notion of a gross receipts tax in the state.  For Oregon Senator Mark Hass (D) and Representative Mark Johnson (R), it got them thinking creatively about alternatives to such an approach, spawning Legislative Concept 3548, and subsequently, the births of Senate Joint Resolution 41 and House Bill 2230.  Both resemble the now defunct Measure 97—and in the same way can be viewed as a hidden sales tax, essentially.  While finding a palatable path to reform is certainly a tall order, the new tax proposals could pose a serious threat to the Oregon business community and present a thorny solution to addressing the state’s budgetary needs. 

In an April 2017 State Tax Notes article, titled “The Idea That Would Not Die: Beyond Oregon’s Measure 97,” my colleague Michelle DeLappe and I discuss these new Oregon tax proposals and their key differences with Measure 97, the benefits and shortcomings of a gross receipts tax, and the likelihood of a gross receipts tax in Oregon becoming a reality.

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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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