Author Archives: Jamie Koepsel

South Dakota v. Wayfair Rejects the Physical Presence Standard

States desperate for an influx of cash just received a blessing from the United States Supreme Court through the Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. The decision reverses prior decisions in Quill v. North Dakota and National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, which provided that only a business with a physical presence in a state could be required by that state to collect sales tax. In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court found that a “substantial nexus” with a state, rather than physical presence, is all that is required for a state to have the power to require an out-of-state business to withhold and pay sales tax.

For years, businesses have avoided the collection of sales tax on online sales by working around the physical presence requirement. Catalogs and phone orders were the original avenues allowing a business to reach more customers without establishing a physical presence in new jurisdictions. The growth of online sales has only compounded the problem faced by state budgets.

Until South Dakota v. Wayfair, a business making an online sale to a customer located in a state where that business does not have a physical store could not be required to collect sales tax on that sale. The sales tax owed would, in theory, be paid directly by the customer, with the customer required to report the sale and pay a use tax to his or her home state. Such use taxes are nearly impossible for states to enforce, with less than two percent of taxpayers ever reporting the use taxes they owe. Unfair competitive advantages have arisen as online retailers sell their goods for a lower, tax-free price than what could be offered by a local store selling from a physical location and required to collect sales tax at the time of sale.

States have attempted to fight back against the physical presence requirement through a number of different tax laws and strategies. The law brought before the Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Wayfair required any business with $100,000 or more of sales delivered to South Dakota or engaging in 200 or more separate transactions for the delivery of goods into the state to withhold and pay sales tax directly to the state.  In upholding the law, the Court defined substantial nexus as when a taxpayer “avails itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on a business in that jurisdiction.”

With states having broader reach to directly tax sales, we can expect a more level playing field between online retailers and brick and mortar shops. We can also expect states looking to expand the reach of their sales tax laws to pass new legislation affecting a broader number of businesses. Businesses conducting sales online to customers in other states must be aware of new requirements a state may impose on the collection and payment of sales tax and what sales may be subject to the withholding of tax by the seller.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

Business Tax Changes Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The Tax Act passed at the end of 2017 brought with it a number of changes to how businesses both big and small are to be taxed moving forward. While the most visible change has been the lowering of the corporate tax rate to a flat 21 percent rate, most businesses should be able to find additional benefits from changes in how business equipment is to be depreciated, how net operating losses can be carried forward into future years, and what improvements to non-residential real property are eligible for an immediate deduction.

A recent presentation given to FICPA discusses the aspects of the Tax Act, other than the Qualified Business Income Deduction, which are most likely to affect the tax savings of your business.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

Charitable Giving Under the New Tax Act – The Standard Deduction Bump

One of the more visible changes from the Tax Act will be the increase in the standard deduction. When completing an annual tax return, a taxpayer has the choice to either take a standard deduction or to itemize deductions. The standard deduction is a flat dollar amount which reduces your taxable income for the year, with the same standard deduction amount applying to every taxpayer who takes the standard deduction. The itemized deduction instead allows a taxpayer to deduct a number of different expenses from throughout the year, including certain medical expenses, mortgage interest, casualty and theft losses, state and local taxes paid, and charitable contributions. Whether a taxpayer uses the standard deduction or itemizes his or her deductions will depend on whether that taxpayer’s itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction amount.

In 2017, the standard deduction amount was $6,350 for single taxpayers and $12,700 for married taxpayers filing jointly. The Tax Act has nearly doubled these amounts for 2018, with the standard deduction increased to $12,000 for single taxpayers and $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. Limitations have also been placed on deducting state and local taxes (capped at $10,000) and on mortgage interest (limited to new loans, capped at $750,000).

Taxpayers now have a higher standard deduction amount they need to pass before itemizing their deductions and they have more limited expenses available in order to get over that bar. Fewer people will be generating the expenses needed to make itemizing deductions worthwhile. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the percentage of taxpayers itemizing deductions will drop from 30% to only 6%.

If fewer taxpayers are itemizing their deductions, the tax benefits of charitable giving will be available to fewer taxpayers. The Tax Policy Center estimates charitable giving to drop anywhere from $12 billion to $20 billion in the next year. Taxpayers may instead bunch their charitable gifts into a single year, itemizing their deductions in such a year while using the standard deduction in subsequent years rather than spreading out these gifts over a stretch of years.

People charitably give to their favorite organizations out of a humanitarian desire to help less fortunate people and to benefit the wider community; a smaller tax incentive will not change this. But the smaller tax incentive is expected to have a negative impact both for a taxpayer’s ability to deduct charitable gifts and for the amount of gifts charitable organizations expect to receive.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

A Little Clarity for Non-U.S. Persons Selling Partnership Interests

A Spanish translation of this post appears below. La traducción al español de este artículo aparece a continuación.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provided clarity to a question of how to treat gain or loss from the sale or exchange of a partnership interest held by a foreign person. The IRS, through Revenue Ruling 91-32, previously provided that “the gain realized by a foreign partner upon disposing of its interest in a U.S. partnership should be analyzed asset by asset and, to the extent any such asset would give rise to effectively connected income, the departing partner’s pro rata share of such gain should be treated as effectively connected income.” The Tax Court disagreed with the findings of Revenue Ruling 91-32 in Grecian Magnesite Mining, Industrial & Shipping Co., SA v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue and instead held that income, gain, or loss from the sale or exchange of a U.S. partnership interest by a foreign person will only be attributable to a U.S. office, and thus taxed as effectively connected income, if the U.S. office is a material factor in the production of such income, gain, or loss in the ordinary course of business of that U.S. office.

Rather than waiting for courts to come to a consensus as to how to treat gain or loss from a foreign person’s sale of a partnership interest, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act amended the previous tax law and took the position of Revenue Ruling 91-32. Now if a partnership has a U.S. office and a foreign person sells an interest in such a partnership, then an asset-by-asset analysis will need to be conducted to determine how much of the gain or loss from such a sale will be subject to U.S. taxes.

For more information regarding the Tax Act, please see our recent related blog posts linked below:

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

Un poco de claridad para personas no estadounidenses que ofrecen a la venta su participación en una sociedad americana (también conocida como “U.S. Partnership”)

La ley de recortes fiscales y empleos de 2017, conocida como el “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” dió claridad a la cuestión de cómo tratar las ganancias o pérdidas de capital generadas después de la venta o intercambio de capital de una sociedad americana (“U.S. partnership”) en poder de una persona no estadounidense.

El IRS (Servicio de Impuestos Internos), a través de la Resolución de Impuestos 91-32, sostenía que las ganancias generadas por un socio extranjero al vender o transferir su parte en una sociedad americana debían ser analizadas activo por activo y, en la medida en que las ganancias de cualquier activo estuviesen vinculadas a una actividad realizada en los Estados Unidos, las ganancias de dicho socio (medidas en proporción a su participación en la sociedad) debían ser tratadas como ingresos efectivamente vinculados a una actividad realizada en los Estados Unidos.

El tribunal de impuestos no estuvo de acuerdo con la forma en que la Resolución de Impuestos 91-32 fue interpretada en el caso de Grecian Magnesite Mining, Industrial & Shipping Co., SA v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. El tribunal sostuvo que los ingresos, ganancias, o pérdidas generadas en la venta o intercambio de la participación de una sociedad americana por una persona extranjera debían ser atribuibles solamente a una oficina ubicada en los Estados Unidos y ser tratadas como ingresos efectivamente vinculados, solamente si la oficina ubicada en los Estados Unidos era indispensable para la producción de dichos ingresos, ganancias, o pérdidas en el curso ordinario de los negocios de la oficina ubicada en los Estados Unidos.

En lugar de esperar a que los tribunales llegaran a un consenso en cuanto a cómo tratar las ganancias o pérdidas generadas en la venta de capital de una sociedad en propiedad de una persona extranjera, la reforma fiscal de 2017 modificó la ley tributaria anterior y asumió la regla establecida por la Resolución de Impuestos 91-32. Ahora, si una sociedad tiene una oficina ubicada en los Estados Unidos y una persona extranjera vende su participación en tal sociedad, un análisis de cada activo debe ser conducido para determinar el monto de las ganancias o pérdidas sujetas a impuestos en los Estados Unidos.

Traducción por Juliana Ferro, Abogada

A Guide to the Toll Charge of the Tax Act

Shareholders in foreign businesses could find themselves hit with an immediate tax on offshore earnings under the recently passed “Tax Act,” officially known as “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  Before the Tax Act, most foreign income earned by US shareholders through foreign corporations would only be subject to US taxes when the foreign income was paid to those US shareholders as dividends. The Subpart F rules were a way for the United States to capture some of this offshore income in the US tax base, but careful planning meant many US shareholders with foreign companies could keep money offshore and out of the US tax system for years. Some estimates put the amount of this offshore money at nearly $3 trillion, so any change to how the United States treats foreign taxes would look into how best to address these offshore earnings.

The Tax Act will look to capture some of this offshore income through a one-time immediate increase in the Subpart F income of certain US persons investing in foreign corporations.  The amount of income immediately taxed by the United States will increase by the greater of (i) accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income determined as of November 2, 2017, or (ii) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income determined as of December 31, 2017.  The tax rate on this deferred foreign income will be 8 percent for non-cash E&P and 15.5 percent for cash E&P.  This one-time tax has been referred to as a “Toll Charge” for how it may allow offshore income to flow back into the United States.

The Toll Charge is not a routine E&P calculation for US shareholders of foreign corporations.  Year-by-year ownership percentages, whether E&P is cash or non-cash, and the availability of certain foreign tax credits will all affect the final tax due.  The Tax Act has allowed for the payment of the Toll Charge in installments if sufficient cash to make payments is unavailable.

For more information regarding the Tax Act, please see our recent related blog posts linked below:

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

The Republican Tax Plan Is Out. What Now?

On November 2, 2017, House Republicans unveiled their widespread rewrite of the U.S. Tax Code. The tax plan, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, is a 429-page bill that provides changes to many aspects of tax law including the corporate tax rate, individual tax rates, the taxes levied on pass-through businesses such as partnerships, and estate taxes. While the bill is unlikely to be signed into law in its present form, certain key provisions of the proposal highlight the direction Republicans hope to take the U.S. Tax Code.

A notable provision is the slashing of the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent rate to a new 20 percent rate. While earlier proposals considered a temporary rate reduction, the current proposal would make this tax cut permanent. Another much-discussed change is the introduction of a 25 percent tax rate for pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S-corporations. Most items of active income being passed through a business to partners or shareholders would be taxed at a maximum 25 percent rate, rather than the current 39.6 percent minimum rate.

The new tax plan also provides significant changes to how individuals are taxed. Key provisions reduce the seven individual tax brackets to four brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent, and 39.6 percent. The 39.6 percent top bracket will only apply for married couples earning at least $1 million a year or individuals earning at least $500,000 a year. The estate tax exemption would be raised to $11.2 million from its current $5.6 million amount, with the estate tax repealed entirely by 2024.

This is only the beginning of tax reform. The bill must still pass the Senate and be approved by the President, a tall task even if Republicans control each aspect of the legislative process. The reaction of Senators, and more importantly the reaction of voters, will determine whether the tax plan is passed, amended, or rejected entirely.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

Tax Residency and the 2017 World Rowing Championships

The Sarasota-Manatee area recently hosted the 2017 World Rowing Championships, bringing nearly a thousand athletes from seventy countries to the world class rowing facilities at Nathan Benderson Park. The tax consequences of such a visit were probably far from the thoughts of the rowers, coaches, support teams, and fans arriving from all over the world. At what point should someone consider how their visits to the United States could create tax problems? Could you owe tax to the United States just by visiting the country for a rowing competition?

The United States taxes the worldwide income of those who are United States citizens and residents. Generally, any person born or naturalized in the United States will be considered a United States citizen. A person will be considered a resident of the United States by receiving U.S. permanent resident status in the way of a green card or by meeting the substantial presence test. Frequent visitors to this country or those who stay in the country for extended periods must be aware of how the substantial presence test could affect their residency status.

The substantial presence test looks at the number of days a person has spent in the United States over the past three years. Seasonal visitors to the United States, those who make frequent trips to the country for business purposes, or those who vacation in the United States may all establish residency by spending too many days on U.S. soil.

Those in the United States competing in sports may have a slight glimmer of good news. Professional athletes receive a partial exception from counting days for the substantial presence test, but only for days where a professional athlete is temporarily in the United States to compete in a charitable sporting event that is organized to benefit a tax-exempt charity, contributes 100 percent of the proceeds to charity, and uses volunteers for substantially all the work needed to run the event.

If the 2017 World Rowing Championships was your first and only trip to the United States then you likely won’t run into residency problems. But those that have fallen in love with the Sarasota-Bradenton area and plan to return for more visits need to be aware of how your stay in the United States could create tax consequences.

Jamie E. Koepsel
(941) 552-2562
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com