As we inch closer to the January 1, 2018 official changeover of many responsibilities from the Board of Equalization to California's two new tax agencies (the Department of Tax and Fee Administration [TFA], and the Office of Tax Appeals [OTA]), legislators are refining and narrowing the details of future responsibilities and processes for taxpayers to avail themselves of these administrative bodies.
The California Supreme Court issued a ruling on August 28, 2017 in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland that may have created a loophole for special interests to get around the limitations on tax increases established by Propositions 13 and 218. In the instant case, an initiative was proposed in Upland, California to repeal an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and instead allow up to three dispensaries to obtain permits, subject to an "annual Licensing and Inspection fee" totaling $75,000. Since this fee exceeds the costs incurred by the government for issuing the license, it is considered a general tax. Normally, such taxes can only be heard at general elections, but an exception was made and the initiative was voted on in a special election.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced on August 22, 2017 that it will be targeting shell companies purchasing luxury properties for $2 million or more in the California counties of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Santa Clara. Luxury property purchases in certain counties in Texas, Florida, New York, and Hawaii will also be under scrutiny per FinCEN's recent Geographic Targeting Order.
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) recently released an update on the current state tax filing season. The number of personal returns that were e-filed in 2017 increased by one percentage point as compared to 2016 (88% in 2017, and 87% in 2016). Some 133,400 people used CalFile to file returns this year, and 95% of CalFile users found that the program was easy to use and understand.
The Franchise Tax Board has updated its cost recovery fees, which are assessed against individuals and business entities when they fail to file tax returns upon demand or fail to pay their delinquent taxes. The filing enforcement fee for individuals and most entities will be $84, and the collection fee will be $287. For corporations and LLC's treated as corporations, the filing enforcement fee will be $85 and the collection fee $374.
On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017. Sweeping changes to the administration of taxes and fees formerly administered by the Board of Equalization take effect on July 1, 2017. A new Office of Tax Appeals will begin hearing tax appeals of California income tax, sales tax, use tax, hazardous waste fees, and other taxes and fees effective January 1, 2018. The rules and regulations that will govern the two newly created state agencies remain a work in progress. For more information, click here.
The Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017, which will create two new entities (the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and the Office of Tax Appeals) to take over most of the California State Board of Equalization's functions, has passed both the Assembly and the Senate and was presented to Governor Brown on June 21, 2017. Once approved by the Governor, the bill will take effect on July 1, 2017. Keep track of developments in the bill process here.
The Board of Equalization is attempting to respond to the California Legislature's mandate to turn over most of its authority to two newly created agencies, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, and a Department of Administrative Tax Appeals. It's obvious that the short time frame and political climate have the Board of Equalization members and management scrambling to meet the July 1, 2017 deadline for most of the changes to occur. The Governor is expected to sign the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017 into law any day now.
As of July 1, 2017, California's State Board of Equalization will likely be a thing of the past. Lawmakers voted on June 15th to pass Senate Bill 86, The Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017, which will rapidly create a new Department of Tax and Fee Administration that will fall under the umbrella of the Government Operations Agency and take over all of the Board's non-Constitutional functions from headquarters in Sacramento. The only responsibilities left to the Board will be property tax administration, tax rate setting, and some other minor duties.
In January, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (Lee) (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 718.