It is a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest with chances of snow showers. For those taxpayers that reside in the state of Washington or own highly appreciated capital assets located in the state, their day just got a bit gloomier.
Earlier today, the Washington Supreme Court, in a 7-2 opinion, overturned the Douglas County Superior Court decision that had ruled the state capital gains tax enacted by the legislature in 2021 violates the Washington State Constitution.
In its 50-plus page opinion written by Justice Debra L. Stevens, the majority of the court concludes:
“The court below [the Douglas County Superior Court] concluded the tax is a property tax that violates article VII’s uniformity requirement. In light of this ruling, the court did not address Plaintiffs’ additional constitutional challenges. We accepted direct review and now reverse. The capital gains tax is appropriately characterized as an excise because it is levied on the sale or exchange of capital assets, not on capital assets or gains themselves. This understanding of the tax is consistent with a long line of precedent recognizing excise taxes as those levied on the exercise of rights associated with property ownership, such as the power to sell or exchange property, in contrast to property taxes levied on property itself. Because the capital gains tax is an excise tax under Washington law, it is not subject to the uniformity and levy requirements of article VII. We further hold the capital gains tax is consistent with our state constitution’s privileges and immunities clause and the federal dormant commerce clause. We therefore reject Plaintiffs’ facial challenge to the capital gains tax and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
As many readers have noticed, I have been silent for the past few months. That is partly due to exhaustion from reporting on the flurry of tax events that have occurred since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced in 2020 and also partly due to the need to conserve energy to fully learn, digest and report on the highly anticipated, new broad-sweeping federal tax legislation we should see within the next few weeks. While many commentators are publishing articles on what could be contained in final legislation and what taxpayers should be doing currently, I decided, especially since I do not possess a good crystal ball, to wait until the legislation is passed (or at least gets further along in the legislative process) before reporting on it and advising taxpayers on what they should be doing in anticipation of the legislation. So, all has been calm on the Larry’s Tax Law blog front. Once the legislation is passed, however, I expect a nasty storm to ensue.
I plan to provide you with a summary of the most salient provisions of the law and how those provisions may impact taxpayers. In the interim, I wanted to share some interesting tax trivia just published by the Internal Revenue Service.
Please join me on June 29, 2017 in Portland, Oregon, for what will be a dynamic presentation on the new partnership audit rules by Jerald August. Jerry is a Partner in the preeminent New York City-based boutique tax firm Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP. He has served as a chair of NYU's Institute on Federal Taxation for a number of years and specializes in federal and state income taxation, including taxation of pass-thru entities and tax controversy. Jerry is not only one of the brightest tax lawyers you will ever meet, he is an outstanding speaker. We are very fortunate to have him present at the Portland Tax Forum on this important topic. We all need to learn about the new partnership audit rules – they come into play on January 1, 2018.
Please join me at the NYU Summer Institute in Taxation this July in New York City. This year, I will be presenting "Entity Classification – Another Look at the Check-the-Box Regulations" on Day 2 (July 27) of the Institute’s Advanced Income Tax and Wealth Planning Conference, where I will discuss recent developments, flexibility and planning opportunities created by the regulations, traps that exist for the unwary, and practical tax practitioner guidance.
As reported in my January 20, 2015 blog post, the IRS continues to take strong blows to its body in terms of budget setbacks. President Obama, however, as part of his administration’s 2016 budget proposal issued on February 2, 2015, plans to end some of the pain being imposed on the Service. His budget proposal, if enacted, would infuse over $12.9 billion into the Service’s coffers during fiscal year 2016. This represents an increase of approximately $2 billion over the fiscal year 2015 IRS budget.
President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal includes provisions which, in the aggregate, increase income tax revenues by approximately $650 billion over 10 years. At least three of the proposed tax increases will be of concern to a broad spectrum of taxpayers:
On February 2, 2015, President Obama published his 2016 budget proposal. It proclaims that “[a] simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system is critical to achieving many of the President’s fiscal and economic goals.” While some tax practitioners may debate the claim that the tax provisions embedded in the President’s budget proposal make the tax system simpler, it is a certainty that a significant number of tax practitioners will question the fairness of these provisions.
As in the past, the President’s budget proposes that “wealthy millionaires” pay no less than 30% of their income in federal income taxes. To facilitate accomplishing that goal, President Obama suggests these taxpayers be prevented from making charitable contributions to reduce their tax liability. He states: “…this proposal will act as a backstop to prevent high-income households from using tax preferences to reduce their total tax bills to less than what many middle class families pay.”
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; Tulsa, Oklahoma; 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.