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TeleworkIn 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.

WildfiresWhen we thought times were bad enough with the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest in our country, the West Coast, including the Pacific Northwest, was struck with unprecedented wildfires and massive windstorms, taking lives, destroying property and rendering the air quality throughout the region unhealthy.  On September 16 and 17, the Internal Revenue Service announced good news for many taxpayers residing in Oregon. 

In News Release OR-2020-23 and News Release IR-2020-215, the IRS announced that, due to the wildfires and windstorms striking Oregon, the deadline for certain Oregonians to file returns and make tax payments will be extended to January 15, 2021.

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.

CatDuring 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.

PhoneAs 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.

Conference callThe 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.

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.

NewspaperNew 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.

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.

Oregon flagIn accordance with ORS 305.157, the director of the Oregon Department of Revenue (“DOR”) ordered an automatic extension of the 2019 tax year income tax filing and payment due dates. Oregon now joins several other states and the U.S. Department of the Treasury in this regard.

For Oregon personal income taxpayers, the order means:

    • The Oregon income tax return filing due date for tax year 2019 is automatically extended from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020.
    • The Oregon income tax payment deadline for payments due with the 2019 tax year return is automatically extended to July 15, 2020.
    • The time for making estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 is not extended.
    • The tax year 2019 six-month extension to file, if requested, continues to extend only the filing deadline until October 15, 2020.
    • Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or notify the DOR to qualify for this Oregon tax filing and payment extension. 

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Larry J. Brant
Editor

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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