Halloween is right around the corner. As you prepare to greet trick-or-treaters or dress in costumes for a party with friends, I thought it would be fun to look at how states are benefiting from the holidays, specifically through sales tax.
Obviously, certain Halloween items fall under standard taxes (e.g. Halloween costumes). But what about those treats? From candy for the kids to soda and adult beverages for the grown-ups, keep reading to learn how these sweets and drinks fall under state tax provisions.
Trick Or Treat! Candy Meets Sales Tax Laws
It’s estimated Americans will spend $2.6 billion dollars on Halloween candy this year. Although candy itself is small and fairly inexpensive, when you add up how many consumers are buying it, you can see why it becomes a state tax issue.
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes Region of the United States. It is the 34th largest state by area, the seventh most populous and the 10th most densely populated. Ohio is historically known as the “Buckeye State” after its Ohio Buckeye trees and Ohioans are also known as “Buckeyes.”
Much of Ohio features glaciated till plains, with an exceptionally flat area in the northwest being known as the Great Black Swamp. This glaciated region in the northwest and central part state is bordered to the east and southeast by a belt known as the glaciated Allegheny Plateau, and then the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. Most of Ohio is of low relief, but the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau features rugged hills and forests.
Ohio’s geographic location has proven to be an asset for economic growth and expansion because Ohio links the Northeast to the Midwest, much cargo and business traffic passes through its borders along its well-developed highways. Its border with Lake Erie has numerous cargo ports.
Over the last few decades, states have had the opportunity to broaden their income and franchise tax base by ensnaring a larger proportion of out-of-state taxpayers in their taxing regime through adoption of broad economic or factor-based economic nexus standards.
However, states have traditionally struggled to do the same with respect to their sales and use tax base because of the long-standing United States Supreme Court nexus decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992).” 1 For nearly three decades, the dicta contained in Quill have prevented states from adopting economic-based nexus
standards with respect to sales and use taxes, requiring instead a more stringent physical presence standard (or “substantial nexus”).
The Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to hear challenges or cases related to Quill, until recently. Read More
By now many of us in California have contemplated our fate regarding how the tax reform act passed by Congress last month will likely hurt Californians as a result of the federal limit on the state and local tax deduction for individual taxpayers.
In an effort to mitigate the limit of this deduction for Californians, state lawmakers have quickly looked to alternatives. Read More
As the mainstream media wonders where Amazon will locate its HQ2, many states are in the news touting their credits and incentives benefits to draw in company expansions.
As I’ve reported before, the California Competes Tax Credit has been available since January 2014 and isn’t scheduled to sunset until 2025. Every year, the state earmarks funds for the program of approximately $200 million, and companies compete for the funds during three application periods per year.
If you’ve been following along with our series about various states’ approach to online sales tax, you can see how multi-state tax issues can get confusing for business owners quickly.
At this point we’ve taken a look at the how Colorado, Alabama, Washington, Texas and Arizona establish nexus, which determines eligibility for state sales tax; today we review Nevada.
There is lots of talk about federal tax reform. We are likely to see some legislative language from the House in spring, according to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (see Jeremy Quittner, “Paul Ryan Says Tax Reform Won’t Happen Any Time Soon,” Fortune, 2/2/17).
For years, there have been promises by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to reform our tax code. I’m not sure if many of you recall that in 2010 there was a bi-partisan commission convened by President Obama, “Simpson Bowles” to draft a proposal on reforming our tax code. What happened? The Commission presented its report to Congress, but they refused to do anything.
If Congress enacts the Marketplace Fairness Act (such as S. 743) to allow states to require some remote (non-present) vendors to collect sales tax from customers in their state, states should see a revenue increase. The revenue is not a new tax because their residents should have been paying use tax on these purchases from remote vendors, but because individuals and businesses are not 100% use tax compliant, the sales tax from remote vendors would likely be greater than use tax collections. At least one state has given consideration to what to do with the revenue.
By The Way – the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing today (March 12) on alternatives to the MFA – I’ll have more on that later. Read More
By Michael J. Fleming
One of my mentors constantly reminds me that, “We are accountants; words have meaning.” My immediate response is to usually think that, “if we were not accountants would words not have meaning?” However, once I get past my sarcastic thoughts, I realize that he is challenging us to be more precise and succinct in our writing and to not just read surface meanings but to really analyze the words for alternative meanings. Looking for alternative meanings is especially important when it comes to state tax audit defense. Since you can’t change the facts, you sometimes have to change the argument.
This concept was illustrated quite pointedly in the recent decision of Van Horn v. Alabama Department of Revenue, Alabama Department of Revenue, Administrative Law Division, No. S. 12-863, January 3, 2013. In this case, the taxpayer or his employees traveled throughout AL to take photographs which were later developed at the home office and sent to customers by common carrier. The taxpayer also made in-person phone calls. The DOR examiner assessed the taxpayer for the local taxes based on the sales and photographing visits. The administrative law judge agreed that it could be argued that the taxpayer had purposely availed himself of the economic market and met the conditions of Quill. However, Quill did not apply because the DOR had not updated its regulations concerning local nexus. Basically the only activity that mattered was solicitation and the taxpayer actually traveled into four jurisdictions to solicit sales. However the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that this was still not enough to create nexus. His reasoning was that the statute read “salesmen” while in the taxpayer’s case there was only one “salesman”. He clarified that since the state only used the plural form, the regulation anticipated multiple sales people and therefore the taxpayer did not have nexus.
Words have meaning! In this case the state failed to update its language to be more encompassing and capture the implications of Quill as well as using only the plural form of a word. What great illustrations! We don’t suggest taking this approach when doing tax planning but when you find yourself in an audit situation having someone who can think outside the box is invaluable. My mentor constantly forces us to do so.