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Capitol in Salem, OregonWe are taking a break from our multi-post coverage of Opportunity Zones to address a recent, significant piece of Oregon tax legislation. 

On May 16, 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed into law legislation imposing a new “corporate activity tax” (“CAT”) on certain Oregon businesses.  The new law expressly provides that the tax revenue generated from the legislation will be used to fund public school education. 

Although the new tax is called a “corporate” activity tax, it is imposed on individuals, corporations, and numerous other business entities.  The CAT applies for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2020. 

To help defray the expected increased costs of goods and services purchased from taxpayers subject to the CAT that will assuredly be passed along to consumers, the Oregon Legislative Assembly modestly reduced personal income tax rates at the lower income brackets.

ApplauseOn April 17, 2019, Treasury issued its second installment of proposed regulations relating to Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QOZs”). The regulations are 169 pages in length, and (as suspected) are fairly complex. Nevertheless, Treasury addresses a significant number of important QOZ issues.

We will dive into the proposed regulations in some detail in subsequent blog posts. In this post, however, we provide a high-level overview of some of the more significant provisions in the proposed regulations.

There has been a lot of “buzz” in the media about Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QOZs”). Some of the media accounts have been accurate and helpful to taxpayers. Other accounts, however, have been less than fully accurate, and in some cases have served to misinform or mislead taxpayers. Let’s face it, the new law is quite complex. Guidance to date from Treasury is insufficient to answer many of the real life questions facing taxpayers considering embarking upon a QOZ investment.

In this installment of our series on QOZs, we will try to address some of the questions that are plaguing taxpayers relative to investing in or forming Qualified Opportunity Funds (“QOFs”). Please keep in mind before you attempt to read this blog post that we readily admit that we do not have all of the answers. We do, however, recognize the many questions being posed by taxpayers.

Opportunity ZonesAs with any investment, due diligence is required. Investing in an Opportunity Zone Fund (“OZF”) is not any different.

Historically, we have seen taxpayers go to great lengths to attain tax deferral. In some instances, the efforts have resulted in significant losses. With proper due diligence, many of these losses could have been prevented.

A TALE OF IRC § 1031 EXCHANGES GONE WRONG

Tax deferral efforts under IRC § 1031 have often resulted in significant losses for unwary taxpayers.   The best examples of these losses resulted from the mass Qualified Intermediary failures we saw over the last two decades.

BACKGROUND

Grand CanyonSections 1400Z-1 and 1400Z-2 were added to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”) by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These new provisions to the Code introduce a multitude of new terms, complexities and traps for the unwary.

The first new term we need to add to our already robust tax vocabulary is the phrase “Qualified Opportunity Zones” (“QOZs”). The Code generally defines QOZs as real property located in low-income communities within the US and possessions of the US. Additionally, to qualify as a QOZ, the property must be nominated by the states or possessions where the property is located and be approved by the Secretary of Treasury.

CakeAs we discussed in our February 27, 2018 blog post, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ("TCJA") eliminated the deduction for entertainment expenses.  Despite commentary to the contrary, we have consistently reported that meals continue to be deductible (subject to the 50% limitation under Code Section 274(n)) post TCJA under Code Section 274(k) as long the meals are not lavish or extravagant, and the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present at the furnishing of the meals.  Our position relative to meals is supported by guidance from the Service (IRS Notice 2018-76) issued on October 3, 2018.  More importantly, the recently issued guidance focuses on an issue raised in our prior blog post, namely whether meals purchased at an entertainment event are deductible provided the requirements of Code Section 274(k) are satisfied.  We suspected that the Service would issue guidance on this issue.  It did.

monkey wrenchThe Service issued proposed regulations corresponding to IRC § 199A today.  As discussed in a prior blog post, IRC § 199A potentially allows individuals, trusts and estates to deduct up to 20% of qualified business income (“QBI”) received from a pass-through trade or business, such as an S corporation, partnership (including an LLC taxed as a partnership) or sole proprietorship.

BACKGROUND

Deduction

The deduction effectively reduces the new top 37% marginal income tax rate for business owners to approximately 29.6% (i.e., 80% of 37%) in order to put owners of pass-through entities on a more level playing field with owners of C corporations who now have the benefit of the greatly reduced 21% top corporate marginal tax rate under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”). The concept sounds simple, but the application is complex. The new Code provision contains complex definitions and limitations, requires esoteric calculations, and is accompanied by many traps and pitfalls.

bullyNew York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the state of New York, joined by the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland, have instituted a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to strike the $10,000 cap imposed on the state and local tax (“SALT”) itemized deduction by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) as unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, which specifically names Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary and David Kautter, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, as defendants, asserts that the SALT cap (previously discussed in an earlier blog post) was specifically enacted by the federal government to target New York and similarly situated states, that it interferes with a state’s right to make its own fiscal decisions, and that it disproportionately adversely impacts taxpayers in those states.

disconnectedAs we have been discussing these past several weeks, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) drastically changed the Federal income tax landscape. The TCJA also triggered a sea of change in the income tax laws of states like Oregon that partially base their own income tax regimes on the Federal tax regime. When the Federal tax laws change, some changes are automatically adopted by the states, while other changes may require local legislative action. In either case, state legislatures must decide which parts of the Federal law to adopt (in whole or part) and which parts to reject, all while keeping an eye on their fiscal purse.

INTRODUCTION[1]

M&A dealThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) will significantly impact merger and acquisition (“M&A”) activity. Although billed as tax reform, the TCJA did not reform or simplify the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”).

Virtually none of the provisions of the TCJA directly impact M&A transactions. Rather, the TCJA added or modified several sections of the Code that indirectly impact transaction structuring, pricing, negotiations and due diligence. Making matters more complex, some of these provisions of the TCJA are temporary.

This blog post briefly highlights several key provisions of the TCJA and the impact on M&A.

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Larry Brant
Editor

Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.

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