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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.

Cleaning houseEarlier this year, rumors surfaced that the IRS plans to clean house and phase out all attorney positions from the Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”), an independent arm of the Service tasked with enforcing discipline relating to tax professionals practicing before the IRS. On August 7, 2019, the Taxation Section of the American Bar Association (the “Tax Section”) sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig urging him to reconsider this housekeeping plan.

The Tax Section is absolutely correct in its position. Attorney oversight within OPR is critical to ensure OPR’s independence, to ensure the proper interpretation of legal rules applicable to tax practitioners, and to ensure that legal doctrines such as due process and privilege are not undermined.

On June 19, 2014, San Francisco tax attorney, James P. Kleier, entered into a plea agreement with the government for his failure to file tax returns and pay income taxes.  Per the agreement, Mr. Kleier will be imprisoned at the Atwater Federal Corrections Institution for 12 months commencing September 18, 2014.  Following release from prison, he will be subject to a 1-year supervised parole.  In addition, Mr. Kleier is required to pay the IRS a total $650,993.

Mr. Kleier was a partner in the San Francisco law office of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP (now known as K&L Gates LLP) from 1999 to 2005.  Thereafter, he practiced law in the San Francisco office of Reed Smith LLP.  Both of these organizations are large prestigious international law firms.  According to the complaint filed by the government in the U.S. District for the Northern District of California, tax attorney Kleier failed to report income of more than $1.3 million while practicing law at these firms.  Specifically, he earned $624,923 in 2008; $476,088 in 2009; and $200,734 in 2010.  Nevertheless, he failed to file tax returns for these years and pay the taxes due and owing.

Mr. Kleier is not a novice attorney.  He is a seasoned tax practitioner and has handled several significant high-profile tax cases.  For example, Mr. Kleier represented the City of San Francisco in its battle with Macy’s over a significant property tax matter, and he represented Microsoft in a hotly-contested California unitary tax case.  Also, attorney Kleier has taught tax courses at both Golden Gate University and the Hastings College of Law.  In addition, he is the author of several articles on tax matters.

For his bad deeds, attorney Kleier made the infamous list of the top 250 delinquent California taxpayers.  According to California public records, he now joins the ranks of prominent taxpayers like singer Dionne Warwick and actor Burt Reynolds.  Also, as stated above, he now owes the government over $650,000 in taxes, interest and penalties.  In addition, he will be spending a year in the slammer.

IRS Special Agent-in-Charge José M. Martinez said, when interviewed about the case:  “The prosecution of individuals who brazenly attempt to avoid their tax filing and payment obligations and prevent the IRS from performing its mission is necessary to maintaining public confidence in our tax system.”  No doubt, the fact that the taxpayer in this case was a prominent tax attorney, played a role in the outcome.

The morale to the story is simple:  Tax practitioners should know better!  It is quite likely that a tax practitioner who finds himself or herself in this predicament will not be treated leniently.  Mr. Kleier is proof of this hypothesis.

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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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