Posted tagged ‘estimated audit’

Weekly SALT Update – Nov. 3, 2011

November 3, 2011

 By Paul Masters with contributions by Jennifer Weidler in Chamberlain’s Philadelphia office.

State DOR Letters and Policy Rulings

But where’s your paper … New Mexico hearings officer rules that a taxpayer does not qualify for a gross receipts tax deduction merely because the taxpayer did not possess any nontaxable transaction certificates as required by NMSA 1978, Section 7-9-43 (2001). Other states have similar requirements for certificates, but merely because they are “required” does not necessarily mean the courts agree.

Virginia Tax Commissioner rules that an egg tray washer was not “processing” as defined by Virginia Code § 58.1-609.3(2)(iii) as it was used between the processing to maintain cleanliness. Even though the equipment was necessary to operate the actual processing, the equipment itself was not involved in the processing of the eggs for sale. Similarly, a “honey wagon” that was used to collect the bird droppings and then spray the droppings as fertilizer on fields was not part of the processing, even though the droppings came from the waste resulting from the cleaning of the eggs. Finally, the Commissioner rules that pit fans used to dry bird droppings that are then sold to farmers as fertilizer are not processing, but do qualify for the agricultural exemption at Virginia Code § 58.1-609.2(1). Different result should apply in Texas, as drying an item is a physical change, thus processing.

State Regulations and Public Notices

North Carolina updates its taxability matrix for the SSUTA.

The New Jersey Division of Taxation has published answers to frequently asked questions relating to the NJ-1040 e-filing mandate. For the 2011 taxable year forward, tax preparers expecting to prepare eleven (11) or more New Jersey individual income tax returns must electronically file those returns for which an electronic filing option is available.  Those returns not included in the e-filing mandate are New Jersey nonresident, part-year resident, amended and prior year returns.

The Connecticut Department of Revenue issued an Informational Publication (IP 2011(15)) answering frequently asked questions regarding the Connecticut individual use tax.  The Informational Publication addresses changes in legislation affecting Connecticut use tax filing and payment obligations, which occurred during 2011.

Starting January 1, 2011, those tax preparers filing more than five (5) returns per year with New York are now required to e-file.  The New York Department of Taxation may impose a penalty on both the preparer and the taxpayer for a failure to electronically file returns.  Additionally, beginning with the return due on March 20, 2012, sales tax returns for annual filers must be filed electronically.

State Legislative Affairs

Economic nexus comes into play again. Michigan signs into law SB 650 which defines nexus for a financial institution as any of the following: (i) physical presence, (ii) Michigan source receipts of at least $350,000 or (iii) has an ownership interest in a flow through entity.

Judicial and Administrative Decisions and Pleadings

A coalition of public school districts in Texas files suit against the State of Texas on constitutional grounds, arguing that the state tax system funding public schools is unfair, and does not provide the schools with sufficient funding to provide a free education to students.

In another school funding case, a federal district court rules against Lynch, who argued that Alabama’s property tax rates, among the lowest in the country, violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. How? The tax scheme limits the ability of rural counties to tax wealthy white landowners. The opinion is looooong – really long. In the end, the court focused on its view that the tax structure was based on economics, not race, and therefore passed muster under the rational basis standard.

On further thought … Washington Court of Appeals reverses its decision on remand and finds that a hospital was not entitled to an exemption for amounts collected and paid to a third-party service provider. In its initial decision, the Court of Appeals determined that the payments did not qualify as gross income subject to business and occupation (B&O) tax. But the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ ruling in Washington Imaging Services, LLC v. Wash. Dept. of Rev., 252 P3d 885 (Wash. 2011). Because there was no independent obligation for its patients to pay the third-party service provider for services rendered, the hospital did not make payments on behalf of its patients as their agent, the payments made constituted gross income. The exemption under Wash. Admin. Code § 458-20-111 did not apply as they payments were not customary reimbursements or advances made in the ordinary course of business.

NY Division of Tax Appeals rules against the estimated assessment made by an auditor for sales tax. While the taxpayer lacked the records necessary to avoid an estimated audit, the auditor made assumptions not based on reality, used information limited to only one quarter and extrapolated over a multi-year period. Thus the assessment was arbitrary.

Illinois Court of Appeals affirms decision to use income valuation approach because the sales comparison method provided unreliable. The government had used comparisons that included sales resulting from Department of Justice divestiture orders. Such sales necessarily are not defined as arm’s length transactions.

The Texas Court of Appeals for the 14th District (Houston) rules that Hotels.com and other similar online companies need not remit occupancy tax on the full amount received by online customers for the purchase of hotel space through the web site. Rather, the hotel occupancy tax is levied solely on the amount received by the hotel.

Other Documents

None noted.

Weekly SALT News Update

October 18, 2011

State DOR Letters and Administrative Rulings

Illinois Office of Administrative Hearings respects the entity, and rules Department of Revenue cannot go after owner of corporation for use tax liability on vessel use in Illinois. Use tax is not a trust tax. It also rules that the foreign corporate owner of a vessel used in Illinois for 30 days/year has sufficient nexus to allow Illinois to impose use tax on value of vessel. Taxpayer allowed credit for tax paid outside the state. Correct tax base for assessment of use tax is the purchase price reduced by depreciation prior to first use in Illinois.

Virginia Tax Commissioner rules that a taxpayer cannot include a foreign corporation that did not have nexus with Virginia into its combined Virginia corporate income tax return. Further, the taxpayer failed to follow proper procedure to claim a valid business purpose to exclude factoring fees required to be added back. In another ruling, it finds that a corporate officer who had no responsibility for financial reporting matters was not personally liable for unpaid use tax pursuant to Va. Code § 58.1-1813. The occasional sale exemption applies for a school that engages in sales of surplus items once per year (or every other year). In fact, as long as no more than three such sales occur each year, the sales are exempt. A manufacturer who leases a vending machine used to dispense exempt safety equipment used in the manufacturing process are subject to sales tax. The dispensing of exempt safety equipment is not an exempt activity, and the activity is not used directly in the manufacturing process.

 

State Regulations and Public Notices

The California Franchise Tax Board issues Cal. Admin. Code tit. 18, § 25128.5 that clarifies the single sales factor filing election now available to multistate taxpayers that must apportion their business income derived from sources in California. It applies to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2011. It issues a 15-day notice for comment for proposed § 25136 relating to sales of other than tangible personal property. It arguably broadens the scope, but is offered as an attempt to capture the original intent of the original regulation. It further defines the meaning of “mixed intangible,” looks to the location of the benefit of the service for approximating sales.

Indiana Department of Revenue revises Directive No. 5 as to the proper tax treatment for income paid to entertainers in the state. It classifies the treatment based on (i) employees of a promoter, (ii) independent contractors, and (iii) employees of a production company. It also revised Information Bulletin No. 88 regarding the tax treatment of non-resident professional athletes playing in Indiana. It revises Information Bulletin No. 39 to reflect the new single-factor sales apportionment for non-resident individuals. And Information Bulletin No. 11 for sales tax is revised to further lay out the proper taxation of purchases (and exemption for consumables), as well as clarifying when an exemption certificate for the purchase of food from a restaurant is proper.

Utah State Tax Commission issues rule effective October 1, 2011 regarding proper allocation of gross receipts attributable to Utah. If the corporation does not have an office in Utah from which the sales are negotiated or effected, then the receipts allocable to Utah are (i) those resulting from performance of services with greater benefit in Utah than any other state, and (ii) sale of goods for delivery in state regardless of title terms. Utah State Tax Commission has promulgated final rule 884-24P-033 that modifies guidance on the assessment of personal property tax for business property and motor vehicles.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue revised Tax Publication 207, which provide guidance for contractors as to the payment of sales tax. Notable changes are relating to equipment being provided by an operator, and conformity with Chula Vista case.

Ohio Department of Revenue has began a push to let the public know about a new use tax amnesty program that began in October. This is a key opportunity for businesses to come into compliance in connection with use tax in Ohio.

New York State Department of Taxation and Finance releases a summary of 2011 legislative changes to the sales tax.

 

State Legislative Affairs

California modifies existing law to require not only the reimbursement of sales tax paid by a manufacturer to replace a vehicle under the state’s “Lemon Law,” but to also reimburse any payment of use tax by the manufacturer. AB 1069 has extended the California film tax credit, an amount based on a percentage of expenditures for the production of a qualified motion picture in California, or, where the qualified motion picture has relocated to California or is an independent film, to July 1, 2015. AB 291 extended the additional $0.006 per gallon tax for storage of petroleum in underground tanks through January 1, 2014.

Tennessee’s governor announced an agreement with Amazon to bring in more jobs and $350 million in capital investment as Amazon agrees to begin collecting Tennessee sales tax effective January 1, 2014 unless a national “solution” first arises. The Legislature would have to approve the agreement, with a bill to be introduced in January.

Reps. Womack (R) and Speier (D) announced that they are cosponsoring Amazon legislation in the U.S. House. It would empower states to require online retailers to collect sales and use tax even if the retailer lacks a physical presence. The bill will be known as the Marketplace Equity Act.

 

Judicial and Administrative Decisions

New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division affirms the decision of the Tax Court, published at 25 N.J. Tax 398 (Tax 2010), granting the Director,

Division of Taxation, summary judgment dismissing the Estate’s complaint with prejudice and denying an inheritance tax refund.  The court rules that the three-year limitation on requesting inheritance tax overpayment refunds, set by N.J.S.A. 54:35-10, is enforceable; and the Square Corners Doctrine does not apply to the facts of this case so as to preclude application of N.J.S.A. 54:35-10.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals, in Department of Revenue v. St. Joseph Health Sys., Inc., et al, reversed a decision in which the lower court found that a gas broker was not a utility, and thus not subject to the utility gross receipts tax. KRS 160.613(1). The hospital had argued as an exempt entity it was not subject to the tax. This was a matter of statutory interpretation by the court, and the court undertook the review to interpret the statute “liberally.” Bob Hook Chevrolet Isuzu, Inc. v. Commonwealth Transportation Cabinet, 983 S.W.2d 488, 490 (Ky. 1998).  (Note: Texas narrowly construes tax statutes against the taxing authority – so quite possibly a different result in Texas.) Because the statute did not state the tax is imposed on a “public utility,” but instead it is imposed on “utility services,” it found that the gas broker was liable.

A three-member panel of the Vermont Supreme Court (not precedential) holds that a comparable provided by taxpayer to dispute assessed value sufficient to rebut presumption of validity of tax appraisal. The government appraiser must provide some evidence to support valuation.

The Washington Board of Tax Appeals rules that a prescription provider whose customers were enrollees of Washington’s Uniform Medical Plan did not qualify for the lower business and occupation tax rate for persons engaged in warehousing and reselling drugs for human use. The BDA focused on the definition requiring drugs to be resold to hospitals and health care providers. UMP is in the insurance business, and insurance companies are not included.

Illinois Department of Revenue Office of Administrative Hearings rules that food given away is subject to use tax.

Michigan Tax Tribunal rules that estimated audit was flawed because of auditor went to purchases to determine sales, as opposed to relying on Z tapes. Auditor’s judgment of inherent unreliability of Z tapes is not sufficient to disregard those records. Taxpayer’s documented close supervision of all sales, understanding of how to transact sales in conformance with tax code by the employees, as well as reconciliation of Z tapes to cash and credit card receipts. Internal controls are sufficient to ensure tax is property collected and reported. Michigan Tax Tribunal rules that former shareholder who sold interest in corporation and continued as president and employee was not a responsible corporate officer under MCL 205.27a(5).

New York Supreme Court rules in New York Mills Redevelopment Co. LLC, et al. v. Town of Whitestown et al. that a taxpayer must have actual notice of withdrawal of exemption, and that upon such date of actual notice the statute of limitations beings to run.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rules in Procter & Gamble Paper Products Co. v. Commw. that pallet used to transport and hold products constitutes exempt packaging for sales and use tax purposes. This is a tax opportunity across the various states.

Ford Motor Co. sues the Florida Department of Revenue to overturn a decision that mandates Ford to pay use tax on parts provided by Ford to complete warranty repairs by repair shops.

Washington Department of Revenue issues a decision regarding agents for growers, warehousing and separate business, and fruit bin rentals. A fruit packing house asserts that its fruit sorting and packing income is exempt from the service and other activities B&O tax, alleging that its income was compensation for the “receiving, washing, sorting, and packing” of fruit from a grower.  It also protests the warehousing B&O tax assessed on amounts derived from its storage of fruit claiming that this activity was not a separate business activity from its fruit sorting and packing business. Taxpayer also protests the deferred sales tax/use tax assessed on fruit bin rentals. While income from performing the fruit sorting and packing services would be exempt if performed for a grower, the customer was a packing house, so no exemption. As to the separate business issue, the DOR pointed to Yakima Fruit Growers Ass’n v. Henneford, 187 Wash. 252, 60 P.2d 62 (1936), which analyzed the separate business issue as to growers, and rejected the taxpayer’s argument. Regarding the argument that sales and use tax did not apply, the DOR pointed to a lack of documentation to prove up that sales tax had already been paid, or to show that the bins belonged to the customers and rejected the claim. In another released decision, the Washington Department of Revenue rules that a grocery store does not qualify for the lower B&O rate slaughter houses due to processing of meat products in the store delis. Finally, it lays out in another ruling the proper tax treatment for certain amusement and recreation sales, and how that fits into the resale exemption for purchased items necessary to provide those services, all in the context of the B&O tax. It is a detailed ruling, and instructive for bifurcating sales of TPP from services, and how the resale exemption fits into that box.

 

Other Documents

It was a flyer for a New York school hockey team that gave the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance the motivation to enact the controversial Amazon law based on affiliate contact. Robert Plattner, Commissioner, stated that an employee of the Department received a flyer from his son’s hockey team, and the flyer touted that the hockey team would receive 6 percent of all sales purchased through Amazon. That appeared to be more like a commission, the active solicitation of sales in New York by Amazon, and along the lines of Scripto as opposed to Quill. The rest is history. Thanks to Amy Hamilton for her report.

New York Division of Tax Appeals: Less Records Means More Leeway for Taxing Authorities

May 27, 2011

 By Paul Masters

The New York Division of Tax Appeals, an Administrative Court, recently ruled in Decision DTA Nos. 822750 and 822751 on the basis of whether the auditor properly used estimated techniques to determine the amount of tax due in connection with an audit of a full-service Japanese restaurant.  The taxpayer, a full-service Japanese restaurant with small bar, was audited for the period of March 1, 2004 through November 30, 2006 in connection with sales and use tax.  The audit period was subsequently amended to include that period through May 31, 2007.  During the course of the audit, the auditor’s analysis of the cash register tapes showed that the tapes had erroneous information regarding the date. The auditor was unable to correlate guest checks to the tapes for a particular month during the audit.  There were are also guest checks located on days in which there were no entries on the tapes themselves, thus leading the auditor to conclude that the tapes could not be used for an audit.  The auditor also looked at the sequence of the numbers used for the guest checks and noticed a wide variation in missing numbers for those checks, including large gaps.

Following an analysis of the cash deposits by the auditor, it was concluded that the restaurant had only deposited 5% to 13% of its cash receipts.  The only information that the auditor believed to have a clear record was that of credit card sales, as a result of presumed-accurate third party information.  The auditor then decided to use a single-day “observation test” to calculate the cash-to-credit ratio and then apply it to all credit card sales during the audit period.  The date used by the auditor for this “observation test” was on a Saturday.  The auditor was present one-half hour before opening until one-half hour after closing and recorded every sale, noting whether the purchase was by cash or credit card.  The auditor found that during the observation period, cash sales constituted approximately 35.83% of sales while credit card sales constituted 64.17% of sales.

The taxpayer argued that the day selected for the audit was high, as compared to most days, because customers on weekends were generally couples and families, as opposed to business people. The taxpayer’s theory was that business people would customarily use credit cards, while families would often use cash.  Therefore, sampling should have been done during the business week to approximate the most common type of sale.  The taxpayer also pointed to Matter of King Crab Rest. v. Chu, 134 A.D.2d 51 (NY App. Div. 1987), where the Court found that the auditor had failed to conduct an adequate investigation to determine if it could have conducted a complete audit.  Also, taxpayer argued that the auditor failed to consider the payment of tips by credit card.

The Court found that the gap in checks was not explainable by pointing to any reasonable practice such as different books being used or books being used from different vendors due to the large member of gaps, the gaps not being divisible by 100, etc.  The Court also found that the taxpayer’s position would require the auditor to speculate as to undocumented sales as opposed to the requirement that there be an independently verifiable record of sales.  The Court refused to side with the taxpayer despite noting “uncontradicted evidence” that the ratio of cash sales to credit card sales was higher on Saturdays.  It found that a one-day observation test had been sustained in various court decisions.  The Court also found little reason to credit taxpayer’s evidence that the single day was not sufficient and favor the taxpayer’s own analysis covering the period of several days as that analysis relied on the incomplete set of guest checks which had already been found to be unreliable.  The Court noted that a taxpayer does not have a right to an expectation of “exactness” in the outcome of the audit method, when it is the taxpayer’s failure to maintain proper records which prevents it.

This same analysis is applicable to estimated audits and other jurisdictions.  Tax enforcement agencies often use estimated audits in the case of a taxpayer not maintaining adequate documentation. Enforcement agencies often turn to an observation-form of analysis to gross up amounts in order to assess tax, e.g., poor tests used in an estimated depletion analysis by Texas in connection with mixed beverage gross receipts tax audits (see, Hearing No. 46,687, STAR 200611875H (Nov. 8, 2006)).  Further, where the lack of records is due to the fault of the taxpayer, the courts may favor an estimated approach of the enforcement agency, even when the number created as a result of such approach is inherently subject to a large variance. To protect against such an approach, taxpayers should maintain adequate books and records to document the reported numbers, and have contemporaneous documentation to explain any gaps.

Amazon Sues Texas Comptroller to Produce Audit Records

January 21, 2011

By Paul Masters

In response to the Texas Comptroller’s deficiency assessment of $269 million for uncollected sales and use tax, Amazon retaliated by filing suit in Travis district court for the production of “[i]nformation related to the audit and the assessment.” As of January 19, 2011, the Texas Comptroller had not been served and thus had no comment.

Other Texas retailers have complained to the Texas Comptroller of the unfair advantage given to Internet retailers such as Amazon who have not been collecting Texas sales and use tax.