Imagine playing a game against an opponent who also makes all of the rules. An opponent that constantly changes the rules as the game is in-progress. Now imagine there are 50+ opponents. That is the multistate tax profession. That is what multistate corporations deal with every day.
State and Local Tax (SALT) laws are so complicated that businesses are set up to fail, to be exposed to audit assessments, to miss out on refunds due to expired statute-of-limitations, pushed to appeal assessments because of unreasonable positions by department audit divisions, coerced to pay computer generated notices simply because the cost of fighting outweighs the benefit. Forced to obtain elaborate accounting software, put procedures in place to comply, and hire experts to plan to minimize tax and mitigate the risk of exposure. The compliance burden for multistate businesses is overwhelming.
State statutes and regulations, court cases, rulings, internal audit division policies, etc. change daily. The constant change and lack of uniformity among the states produces unintended consequences. Even years later, after statutes or regulations have been in place and businesses have complied, states may choose to change the rules again (or sometimes they change their interpretation of the same rules without changing the rules). To complicate matters even worse, these changes may be imposed prospectively or retroactively; whichever has the least impact on the state's revenue. Consequently, taxpayers who have relied on the state's interpretation or challenged the state's interpretation, may owe additional tax or be unable to obtain refunds they deserve.
This complexity means that companies are constantly dealing with multistate tax questions related to compliance, planning, provision and controversy. These questions are often met with the six most common words used in state taxation – “generally,” and “it depends on the state.”
PROBLEM: FINDING THE 'RIGHT' ANSWER
As taxpayers and tax professionals, we are constantly trying to find the right answer - what position to take, whether something is taxable, etc. We review explanations in tax research software, we read statutes, regulations, court cases. We call colleagues, and if we get really desperate, we call the state. I know, sometimes we call the state first, but we all know that when we call the state, we may not get the right answer. It depends on who we talk to, what department, etc. It can be very frustrating to find an answer that is reliable.
I am not talking about tax avoidance or planning to minimize tax. I am simply talking about searching and looking for a compliant answer. We just want to know what position we are supposed to take.
PROBLEM: GENERAL ANSWERS DO NOT SOLVE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
Tax departments spend large sums on subscriptions to tax publisher research databases, and rely on their staff to find specific, custom, reliable answers.
Despite the investment by tax departments in research databases, state tax professionals know that the quick-reference guides / charts are simply that - quick reference. They are not the 'end' of conducting research, but the 'beginning.' The problem is that these charts provide general guidance and in most cases, the guidance is not specific enough to provide the professional with a determinable and reliable conclusion. Thus, all questions require additional research to provide guidance that can be relied upon.
In addition, tax professionals can easily get in a rut of simply reading a tax research publisher's explanations or relying on an explanation from a 'big' accounting or law firm. However, this may not always lead to the right answer.
SOLUTION: SPECIFIC ANSWERS FOR SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
The requirement for additional research to be conducted to reach a reliable conclusion results in the need for what I like to call: "specific answers for specific questions."
Statutes, regulations, court cases and rulings must be examined in the light of your facts. All facts are not addressed by charts and explanations. Simply reading a court case summary or explanation of a ruling does not make it clear on whether the decision applies to your facts. Your facts are unique. Your answer will be as well.
I KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE
I know what it’s like to dig through state tax statutes, regulations, court cases, rulings, etc. to find an answer to a specific question. I always thought it would be great to have someone to bounce my question off of – to get a second opinion, some help – without breaking the bank. To find someone who has experience and is available to help me now (or atleast within 24 to 48 hours), and will treat my question with respect.
I started my state tax blog in 2009, "LEVERAGE SALT,” to help businesses and other tax consultants with state tax issues, and provide that ‘second opinion’ or access to information without the “clock-running.” It is my creative outlet, my way to voice my thoughts, concerns, and ideas regarding multistate taxation. It is also my way of creating connections with CFOs, controllers, and other tax professionals all across the country. Today, the blog has 900+ posts on a variety of state tax topics and has become a great place for businesses and firms to 'start' to answer their state tax research questions.
In 2013, after working in public accounting firms and corporate tax departments for almost 20 years, 'leverage salt,' the blog, turned into "LEVERAGE SALT, LLC."
Through my research and writing, my mission is to help you find clarity for your question and situation; to help companies avoid and resolve controversy; to build better tools for tax professionals; and to positively influence state tax policy.
EXPERIENCE WITH THE FOLLOWING (INCLUDES LINKS TO POSTS):
- Sourcing of Services
- Establishing the right to apportion
- Inclusion of gross proceeds v. net gain in sales factor
- Joyce v. Finnigan
- Throwback / Throwout rules
- Alternative apportionment (relief)
- Composition of Unitary business group
- Tax Base
- Tax Attributes
- Pass-Through Entities
- Entity v. Aggregate theory
- Unitary (tax base / factor flow-up) v. nonunitary (allocation)
- Sale of partnership interest
- Non-resident withholding compliance
- Composite return filing options
- Sourcing of guaranteed payments
- Single-Member LLC obligations and liability
- Multi-tiered entities (compliance and controversy)
- Sales and Use Tax
- Amazon / affiliate nexus
- Reporting requirements
- Situs of services
- Transactions with governmental entities
- Resale exemptions
- Bundled transactions (mixed-transactions)
- Cloud computing (SaaS)
- Software (custom v.canned)
- Construction contractors (prime contractor, subcontractor, real estate owner)
- Sale / leaseback transactions