BSW Tax Blog

Federal and Louisiana Taxes

LDR disagrees with welding company: fuel is not excluded from sales tax, despite the written law saying as much.

 

The “sale or purchase by a person of any fuel or gas” has been excluded from sales taxes since July 1, 2008.  Nevertheless, LDR claims the written law is mistaken and takes the position that the spirit of the Act was only to exclude purchases of butane and propane.  The Department’s position is untenable; it is not free to ignore the letter of the law. The Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals is considering the matter for welding fuel purchases in Metals USA Plates & Shapes Southeast, Inc. v. Robinson (BTA 9342D) consolidated with O’Neal Steel Louisiana, LLC v. Robinson, (BTA 9250).

Consumers of fuel used anywhere but on the highway should consider making a refund claim for sales taxes paid as far back as January 2014.  Additionally, those consumers should consider making its next sales tax payments under protest followed by suit for refund.  Aviation or marine businesses in transit or shipping stand to benefit the most. The exclusion, however, was fully suspended and subject to the full 5 cents from April 1 to June 30, 2016 and is partially suspended and subject to 3 cents thereafter until June 30, 2018.

“Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” – Learned Hand

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Taxpayers File Suit Against the Cap On Louisiana Solar Tax Credits.

Thousands of Louisiana residents purchased expensive solar systems, incentivized by a state tax credit equal to 50% of the cost, up to $12,500.  The Louisiana Legislature retroactively capped the solar tax credit statewide at $25,000,000, making it available to taxpayers when they filed their returns on a first filed, first served basis.  Prior to June 19 2015, there was no cap on the solar credits and  a more generous deadline to install the solar systems, however, taxpayers that would have qualified for the credit prior to the new law were eventually denied, and left holding the bag. Naturally, the deprived taxpayers are looking for answers or their refunds.

With the combined legal skills of New Orleans lawyers, Larry Centola of Martzell, Bickford & Centola, and Heidi Mabile Gould, and Baton Rouge lawyer, Nicole Gould Frey of Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, suit was filed on September 9, 2015 to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation in the matter entitled Gwen and Justin Ulrich & Raymond and Pam Alleman v. La. Dept. of Revenue, 19th JDC, dkt# 651,300, Section 25.

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Christmas Gift for Taxpayers

giftThe purchasers of flex fuel vehicles receive a Christmas gift from the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal upholding the La. Board of Tax Appeals judgment in Bolotte v. LDR (BTA 8007 5/14/2014), which held they qualify for the $3,000 refundable income tax credit under La. RS 47:6035.

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The Last La. Tax Amnesty for Awhile

shackleThe 30 day application period begins on November 16, 2015 to qualify for a 33% and 17% discount on penalties and interest.  Do you qualify?  You can check out the La. 2015 Amnesty Facts and download an application from LDR.  If you don’t have the cash now, credit card payments and installment plans are an option to unshackle taxpayers from past tax liabilities.

Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Consultation

Are You Over or Under Paying?

Louisiana derives 1/3 of its tax revenue from its 4% sales and use tax alone.  Estimates show that an equal amount of tax is avoided through 192 exemptions or exclusions to sales and use tax.  Since the combined state and local rate averages 10%, it is clear that the money involved in sales and use tax can be staggering.   Despite the significant amount of money involved, we find that many of our clients are unable to access sales and use tax expertise to gain affordable advice.  The result is either a surprise hefty tax bill or unclaimed refunds.  Our BSW SALT Team can help.

WHICH BUSINESSES SHOULD CONSIDER A SALES AND USE TAX CONSULTATION?

As a quick test, any business that cannot afford to waste money equal to 10% of expenses or 10% of sales, needs a consultation.  The need for a consultation exists with any business scheduled for a sales and use tax audit.

Businesses selling or leasing tangible personal property (think movable property) must collect the correct sales tax for the correct jurisdiction or else it can be made to pay its customer’s tax out of pocket as a penalty.  Conversely, the same business often enjoys exemptions and exclusions on its own purchases, such as those for raw materials, manufacturing equipment, and purchases for resale.

Business engaged in one of the seven taxable services or leasing movable property must also carefully watch its transactions with customers and venders.  These services can be complicated, but are generally summarized as: rooms for lodging, parking, cold storage, amusements, printing, repair to movables, and laundry.

Businesses selling immovable property, usually contractors, rarely collect any sales tax but must be hyper vigilant in paying sales and use taxes on its purchases to the correct jurisdiction.  Contractors with multi-parish jobsites operating from a centralized storage facility are a particular favorite of local tax auditors these days.

Any business in the following particular industries often receive significant benefit from a consultation:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Nonprofits
  3. Construction
  4. Fabrication
  5. Manufacturing or Farming
  6. Repair services
  7. Any entity with gross sales or expenses over $1M

WHAT ARE THE DELIVERABLES? 

A sales and use tax consultation will deliver training specific to your business based upon its historical transactions and provide peace of mind that your sales and use tax practices are up to snuff.  Some clients have sales personnel join in the consultation along with their payables clerk for greater accuracy in project cost and sales price estimates.

Through sampling methods and then drilling down to individual transactions, Mrs. Gould can identify audit risks, possible exemptions, overpayments, or reporting errors.  Mrs. Gould will provide recommendations at the conclusion of the consultation which may warrant a full reverse audit.  If you are entitled to a refund, you are free to handle it yourself or retain Mrs. Gould and our BSW SALT Team at an hourly or contingency fee for recovery.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS?

The consultation fee is equal to 0.2% of your 3-year IRS Form 1040 gross sales average.  Mrs. Gould will review your basic financial statements, tax returns and the nature of your business before conducting an onsite visit to review specific transactions.  During the onsite visit, valuable sales and use tax training occurs as part of her transaction investigation with your payables clerk.  At the conclusion of the visit, Mrs. Gould will deliver a confidential written report identifying areas of reporting error and potential exemptions and overpayments that may generate a refund or future tax savings.  Every consultation has delivered bottom-line results that have surprised our clients.

La. Supreme Court Protects Taxpayers From Creeping Rental Taxes

“La. Supreme Court Protects Taxpayers From Creeping Rental Taxes”

Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson successfully defended its client, Pot –O-Gold, from the imposition of taxes on services offered in conjunction with the rental of tangible personal property. Pot-O-Gold Rentals, LLC v. City of Baton Rouge, 2014-CA-2154, (La.1/16,/15).

Pot-O-Gold leases various waste collection equipment, in this case, portable toilets and holding tanks. Pot-O-Gold also offers waste removal and equipment cleaning services, which are entirely optional for its rental customers.  For those options which are chosen, a separate charge for the service is made by Pot-O-Gold. Waste removal and cleaning services are not listed among the services subject to tax. La. R.S. 47:301(14).

Louisiana, and its parishes, levy sales tax upon the “gross proceeds” of rentals of tangible personal property. R.S. 47:302B.  The tax laws do not define the phrase “gross proceeds.” In this case the City of Baton Rouge interpreted it to include the amounts charged for the separately stated services and issued an assessment for additional taxes. Pot-O-Gold paid the taxes under protest and filed suit to recover the protested amounts.

The Firm filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court. The court found that because the nontaxable services were independent and optional, they did not become part of the taxable “gross proceeds” simply because the services were rendered by the owner of the rental.

The City appealed and the First Circuit reversed with 2 judges dissenting. Pot-O-Gold Rentals, LLC v. City of Baton Rouge, 2013-1323 (La. App. 1 Cir. 9/17/14) (La. Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2014) writ granted, judgment rev’d sub nom. Pot-O-Gold Rentals, L.L.C. v. City of Baton Rouge, 2014-2154 (La. 1/16/15). The appellate court found that while the “true object” of the rental was the rental of the tangible personal property the  “Money collected for ordinarily nontaxable cleaning and sanitation services became taxable gross proceeds of the lease by virtue of the inexorably intertwined relationship between the services and the leased property.” The appellate court went on to state “ It is of no import whether the services were optional for lessees, whether the services could be purchased from another party, whether the services could be rejected, or whether the services could be purchased independently from the plaintiff by others.”

The Firm filed a writ application with the Supreme Court. The Court not only granted Pot-O-Gold’s writ application, but also simultaneously reversed the appellate court’s decision. In so doing, the Court adopted the dissenting judges’ reasoning that “that to hold that providing cleaning services for portable toilets is not a taxable event if the toilet is owned by someone else, but is a taxable service if the toilet is owned by the lessor, creates an absurd result.” The Court also found  “that the “true object” of the transactions is, in the least, debatable, requiring the court to adopt the interpretation urged by the applicant as the least onerous to the taxpayer.”

A rental company which collected taxes on separately stated, optional services may want to notify its customers as to possible refund opportunities.  A rental company currently collecting taxes on such services may want to reconsider its policy.

If you have questions about your sales tax liabilities or duty to collect, do not hesitate to call a member of our SALT Team.

Taxpayers take Round Two!

boxing glovesThe Louisiana Department of Revenue has lost round two in its fight against the refundable $3,000 income tax credit for the purchase of flex fuel vehicles (FFV).  Judge Scott Gardner ruled for the taxpayers on December 22, 2014 at the 22nd JDC, affirming the decision granting the La. R.S. 47:6035 credit to FFVs in Bolotte v. LDR, 8007 (Bd. Tax App., May 14, 2014).  While we wait for this lead case to complete its appeal process, anyone purchasing a FFV in 2010 has until December 31, 2014 to amend their 2010 tax return to claim the credit.  2011 purchasers have until December 31, 2013 to amend.

How to handle your tax audit.

How should you handle your tax audit?

BR Business Reports weighs in.

Louisiana Tax Amnesty 2014

It’s back, and better than ever.  Louisiana will waive penalties and half of interest if you qualify for tax amnesty during October 15, 2014 through November 14, 2014.  This year even permits installment agreements.  You should consult your SALT advisor to be sure it is right for you.

More information was provided by LDR at RIB 14-017.

 

Tax Collector Without a Triable Issue of Fact Ordered to Pay Taxpayer’s Litigation Bill

gavel moneyIn Lucent Techs. Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization, Cal. Super. Ct., No. BC402036, (4/21/14) the tax collector was ordered to reimburse AT&T, Inc. and Lucent Technologies for $2.6 million in attorney’s fees incurred pursuing a sales tax refund.  The refund claim involved sales taxes on Lucent software for AT&T switches, which was essentially declared exempt in another California case.  Although the tax collector asserted that it was not bound by court decisions in its interpretation of tax, the court stated it was without a triable issue of fact in defense of paying the refund.  Additionally, the court stated it would be poor policy to cause taxpayers to foot the litigation bill alone in the face of clear precedent against the tax collector’s position.  This decision tells the tax collector that s/he may suffer the taxpayer’s consequences if it wishes to further test the waters on a tax issue.

While Louisiana local sales tax laws have only recently included a taxpayer’s right for prevailing party fees, Louisiana taxpayers are already making recoveries from tax collector’s without a substantially justified position.