Could an Amnesty Program erase your tax burden?
There is a new scheduled amnesty program that may help businesses correct overlooked tax obligations if they have been selling products and services in other states. Many companies engage in multi-state sales through an intermediary, like Amazon, eBay and similar organizations called “fulfillment services.” The fulfillment centers place a seller’s inventory in warehouses in multiple states to expedite shipping, but in the process, create nexus for the seller in those states. As such, the sellers have an obligation to collect sales tax and pay income tax. Unfortunately, unpaid taxes may incur penalties and interest. Now there may be a short time window to correct these errors and avoid interest and penalties.
On Monday, July 31, the nexus committee of the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) approved the MTC to participate in a multistate sales tax amnesty program for third-party sellers whose only nexus with a state is the use of fulfillment services offered by third-party marketplaces. The MTC is an intergovernmental state tax agency working on behalf of states and taxpayers to facilitate the equitable and efficient administration of state tax laws that apply to multistate and multinational enterprises.
Mt. Rushmore in beautiful South Dakota
This month takes us to the Mount Rushmore state of South Dakota. South Dakota is the 5th least populous state in the U.S., with a population of 865,454 people in 2016. It is also the 5th least densely populated state in the country. South Dakota is in the north-central United States, and is considered part of the Midwest by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is also part of the Great Plains region, which covers most of the western two-thirds of the state. West of the Missouri River the landscape becomes more and more rugged, consisting of rolling hills, plains, ravines, and steep flat-topped hills called buttes. In the south part of the state, east of the Black Hills, lies the Badlands of South Dakota. Erosion from the Black Hills, marine skeletons that fell to the bottom of a large shallow sea that once covered the area, and volcanic material, all contribute to the geology of this area.
Almost every conversation in and around state tax consulting begins with nexus. Why? Because it’s still of utmost importance to companies to know whether they have nexus, or taxable presence, in a state such that the state can require them to register to collect and remit sales tax and/or to pay income based or franchise taxes. If a company doesn’t have taxable presence, then they are not obligated to file in a particular state. I’ve been practicing in state tax for longer than I care to admit, and I still have this conversation daily with existing clients and new clients as we talk about their potential exposure to taxes in multiple states. It doesn’t help that states are getting more aggressive and creative (maybe a little too aggressive and creative) in defining what constitutes nexus.
Since the infamous 1992 Supreme Court case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), we’ve been talking about nexus as it relates to substantial physical presence in a state. What sorts of things create that physical presence? I often tell clients that it is like having “boots on the ground”. While “substantial” is also a subjective term, it includes the following activities engaged in within a state. Most of them seem fairly straightforward, so I’ve included some examples of specific items we often encounter with clients.
Employees located in a state
Generally, when companies think of creating nexus by virtue of employees located in a state, they’re thinking of employees physically residing in the state, or coming to work in a company office in the state. However, other employee activities in the state can also create nexus. Consider the following scenarios:
- A company salesman works from his home in Texas. But his territory, which he travels into regularly to generate sales, includes the neighboring states of New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Depending on the number of days spent in each state, he likely has created nexus for the company, not just in Texas, but in the other states as well.
- A different company employee engaged in operations, travels to every jobsite of the company and assists with the installation of the company product, confirmation that it functions correctly and other initial troubleshooting. This employee has likely also created nexus for the company in most states he visits.
A cowboy at the reins of an old pioneer wagon.
This month brings us to the Sooner State of Oklahoma. The state lies between the Great Plains to the West and the Ozark Plateau to the East and is in the Gulf of Mexico watershed, generally sloping from the high plains of its western boundary to the low wetlands of its southeastern boundary. With small mountain ranges, prairies, mesas and eastern forests, most of the state lies in the Great Plains, Cross Timbers, and the U.S. Interior Highlands, a region prone to severe weather.
Oklahoma is on a confluence of three major American cultural regions and historically served as a route for cattle drives, a destination for southern settlers, and a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans.
I just returned from an amazing vacation – a cruise of the Mediterranean. We started in Athens, Greece; spent just a couple days there enjoying the history, and then boarded our ship. The cruise took us to the Greek isles of Santorini and Crete, and then we sailed to Italy, the beautiful St. Tropez, France, and finally Barcelona, Spain. We finished our vacation by sampling many, many tapas and wines in Barcelona. About midway through our vacation, I found myself wondering – how could I do US multistate tax consulting somewhere in Europe? I’m still working on that angle, and will certainly keep you posted.
But meanwhile, on the flip side of that equation, we’ve been engaging with several foreign companies who have US operations and find our state tax laws to be, well, challenging! As I tell all my foreign clients – trust me, they are challenging for US companies too! Here are some of the main things for foreign companies to think about as they begin doing business in the US.
A Mississippi Riverboat sailing down the Mississippi River.
This month we travel to the land of Dixie, the southern state of Mississippi. The state is heavily forested with over half of the state’s area covered by wild trees including mostly pine, as well as cottonwood, elm, hickory, oak, pecan, sweetgum and tupelo.
The Mississippi River delta region is considered home of the blues music, where this type of music is honored at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. This region is also one of the top casino destinations between Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Many well-known and diverse singers came out of Mississippi including Elvis Presley, alternative rock band 3-Doors Down, Jimmy Buffet and Opera Singer Leontyne Price.
How is Indiana changing the way it views nexus?
Multistate tax can be a cumbersome issue. When businesses sell their products across state lines, they need to think about whether they have taxable presence, or nexus, in the state and if their products are taxable.
Generally companies establish nexus by having a physical presence in the state. However, several states are pushing the boundaries of defining the physical presence in order to generate more revenue. Welcome to the concept of “economic nexus.”
Nexus and Physical Presence
As we discuss in a previous post, “nexus” is the term used to describe the minimum connection that a company (taxpayer) must have with the state in order for the state to be able to subject the company to its state taxing schemes (including sales tax, income tax, gross receipts tax and others). Nexus is normally established by companies having a physical presence in the state, by virtue of having employees, or third party contractors acting on their behalf in a state, or the presence of a warehouse or storefront in the state. Inventory in a state can also create nexus. Continue reading
White Sands National Monument full of white sand dunes and gypsum crystals.
Welcome to the Land of Enchantment! This month we travel to the southwestern state of New Mexico. The states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah come together at the Four Corners in the northwestern corner of the state, the only such occurrence in the U.S. Although a large state, New Mexico has very little water, with a surface area of only about 250 square miles.
Inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before European Exploration, New Mexico was colonized in 1598 by the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain. Later, it was part of independent Mexico before becoming a U.S. territory and eventually a U.S. state, as a result of the Mexican-American War. Among the U.S. states, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics, including descendants of the original Spanish colonists who have lived in the area for more than 400 years beginning in 1598. The demography and culture are shaped by these strong Hispanic and Native American Influences and is also expressed in the state flag. Its scarlet and gold colors are taken from the royal standards of Spain, along with the ancient symbol of the Zia, a Pueblo-related tribe.
How does Washington state approach online sales tax? This post explains.
The online sales tax debate continues, with states taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting for Congress to decide how to settle the matter. However, not all states are approaching the issue the same way. We’ve already looked at current and potential legislation in Colorado and Alabama; next we venture to Washington state!
A Summary of Washington’s Online Sales Tax Legislation
As we’ve previously explained, Washington prompted online sales tax collection by expanding its definition of nexus. Back in 2015, they rolled out the five-point internet sales tax solution, followed by establishing nexus through click-through retail solutions. Continue reading
Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Academy Chapel Dome and Harbor Queen tour vessel at City Dock.
This month we travel to the birthplace of religious freedom in America, the state of Maryland. Formed by George Calvert in the early 17th Century, the state was intended as a refuge for persecuted Catholics from England. George Calvert was the first Lord of Baltimore and the first English proprietor of the then-Maryland colonial grant. Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and played a pivotal role in the founding of Washington D.C., which was established on land donated by the state.
Mid-Atlantic Maryland is defined by its abundant waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Its largest city, Baltimore, has a history as a major seaport, and is also home to such tourist attractions as the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.