Two major state and local tax (SALT) issues on the minds of tax professionals and taxpayers are the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s (TCJA) changes to the SALT deduction and the Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (No. 17-494, U.S., June 21, 2018), which reduces the significance of a lack of physical presence when determining whether a company does business within a state for tax purposes. This month’s column looks beyond typical accounting outlets for resources from tax policy researchers, a state legislature task force, and a SALT legal practice. The good news is that many useful and practical SALT materials are available in a variety of formats, including articles, detailed studies, interactive tools, webcasts, pod-casts, and mobile applications.
Tax Policy Center
The Tax Policy Center (https://taxfoundation.org) is a nonprofit tax policy research organization with a mission of simplifying tax law, as well as educating taxpayers and law-makers on tax policy issues. The Center for State Tax Policy (http://bit.ly/2phT58h) offers broad overviews, detailed information, data summaries, articles, and studies covering state and local personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and credits and deductions. The word “policy” should not prevent tax preparers from using this website; the main web page for the Center for State Tax Policy is a great place to start if CPAs are looking for practical state tax information, such as state tax rates and proposed and impending legislation.
Individual state information is available from the Center for State Tax Policy main page under “What Are Taxes Like in Your State?” The state-by-state highlights include selected data on individual taxes, business taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. The most useful feature, however, is probably the presentation of state-specific articles. For example, the New York State selection includes “Radical Changes to Small Business Taxation in the Works in New York,” which addresses a proposed SALT cap workaround strategy of imposing a 5% unincorporated business tax on New York–apportioned income of LLCs and partnerships, and then offering an individual income tax credit of 93% of the unincorporated tax paid. The article works through theoretical examples with calculations (http://bit.ly/2OD7s20).
“Facts & Figures” (http://bit.ly/2QBBTHk) provides multiple options for viewing a comparison of the 50 states on 40-plus measures of taxation and expenditures, including an e-book, a PDF, and an Excel spreadsheet. The data covers individual income, corporate income, sales, excise, property, and estate and inheritance taxes. The Facts & Figures app, available for both Android and iOS devices, is worth having for just the up-to-date rates on various state taxes.
The “State Business Tax Climate Index” is a great resource for tax accountants who are advising individual or corporate clients on location decisions (http://bit.ly/2Bz5Z7y). The study ranks the 50 states by corporate income, individual income, sales, property, and unemployment taxes, as well as an overall ranking based on a weighting of the specific taxes. In addition, the particular taxes are discussed in detail, as evidenced by the length of the 80-page full report. The survey data is also available on an interactive web page (https://statetaxindex.org/) that allows users to drill down as desired.
National Conference of State Legislatures
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL, http://www.ncsl.org/) sponsors several task forces, including one on State and Local Taxation (http://bit.ly/2MGPDxf). The SALT task force initially focused on simplifying the administration and collection of sales taxes when it was formed in 1999; however, the mission has grown to include other multistate tax issues. The task force meets every few months. The meeting presentations, as well as a variety of other documents, are available under approximately 50 different topics. At the bottom of the main page is an excellent list of 17 related organizations, with selected documents from each.
The meeting presentation materials are worth checking for items that might be particularly interesting or helpful. For example, the July 2018 meeting resources include a downloadable 26-page slide deck by the Council of State Taxation (COST) titled “COST Scorecard on the States’ Sales Tax Systems” (http://bit.ly/2NNNvbQ). It presents an overview of Wayfair, focusing on three features of the law: a transactional safe harbor, no retroactive application, and participation in the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA). Highlights of the SSUTA include standardized taxes, single-state-level administration, and uniform definitions of products and services. “Online Sales Taxes: What’s Ahead for the States” is an overview of the various state sales tax legislation efforts toward remote sales tax collection (http://bit.ly/2QxBkyi).
The March 2018 meeting covered a variety of topics, with some focus on the impact of the TCJA on the states. “TCJA Individual Tax Provisions and the States” makes broad predictions by individual income level and by state, landing on the SALT deduction as a major factor (http://bit.ly/2xqRZLh). “State Implications of Federal Tax Reform—Business Tax Reform” was presented by Ernst & Young and summarizes the effect of specific federal provisions on the states, the estimated change in state corporate tax base by state, and the effect on industry sectors (http://bit.ly/2MGmlPA).
“Our American States” is an NCSL podcast series published on a bimonthly basis. The podcasts run approximately 20 minutes and can be accessed on the NCSL website (http://bit.ly/2D6PFzg) or downloaded from iTunes or Google Play. Transcripts are also available from the NCSL website. The presentations are generally not tax-specific, but two recent programs include Wayfair-related topics. Episode 39, “What the U.S. Supreme Court Told the States This Term,” starts off with the removal of the physical presence rule and speculation regarding anticipated sales tax collections. Episode 36, “Behind the Supreme Court Case that Gives States OK to Tax Internet Sales,” provides some background history leading up to Wayfair: National Bellas Hess v. the Department of Revenue of Illinois (1967) and Quill v. North Dakota (1962).
Eversheds Sutherland (https://us.eversheds-sutherland.com/) is an international law firm with 66 offices in 32 jurisdictions, including six locations in the United States. The firm sponsors several blogs, including Tax ReformLaw.com, which covers individual and business taxation topics with regular short blog posts that generally link to underlying resources, as well as brief video-casts on current subjects. CPAs who work on state and local tax issues may find the “SALT Shaker” blog to be particularly interesting (http://www.stateandlocaltax.com/). It includes monthly summaries, a quarterly SALT scoreboard, and short videocasts that generally run four or five minutes. The 2018 midyear review “SALT Scoreboard” (http://bit.ly/2QCinuk) is a downloadable three-page PDF that includes a discussion of Wayfair, insights on Chicago’s streaming video tax, and a focus on New York tax appeals cases. The video presentations are also available as podcasts and provide downloadable presentation slides and a “bonus” resource.
Mobile SALT practitioners may find the SALT Shaker app, available for Android and iOS devices, to be useful. Users can access the latest multistate developments by state, tax type, or topic. The app is easy to use and connects to the SALT Shaker website for more in-depth resources. Content can be saved to a “briefcase” and viewed or e-mailed at any time.