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Texas

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State legislators in the Massachusetts House of Representatives recently introduced four bills on the taxation of digital advertising services. Two of these bills propose a tax on digital advertising services, a third bill would set up a “special commission” to study how to generate revenue from digital advertising, and a fourth bill appears to be a placeholder for some action on digital advertising taxation. This makes Massachusetts one of the latest states to join the wave of state digital advertising tax proposals targeting large digital advertising service providers. We have previously covered Maryland’s digital advertising tax, the first in the nation to become law, and various other states’ pending digital and data tax proposals, including New York and Texas. Below, we summarize and compare the various Massachusetts proposals.

Texas has now joined the growing number of states proposing digital advertising taxes that we have covered previously on SALT Savvy, including Maryland’s first-in-the-nation digital advertising tax law and other proposals from Connecticut, New York, and Montana. This new Texas bill—H.B. 4467— would take effect in 2022. The Texas proposal is very similar to the recently-enacted Maryland digital ad tax (H.B. 732) and would impose a new “digital advertising tax” on annual gross revenues derived…

In groundbreaking news, the Texas Third Court of Appeals has withdrawn its earlier opinion and issued a new opinion in the Hegar v. El Paso Electric Co. case. In the case, which has attracted widespread attention, El Paso Electric filed a refund claim with the Texas Comptroller for sales taxes that it had paid on transactions involving “telemetry units that are related to step down transformers,” which are pieces of equipment used to transmit electricity. In its initial redetermination request, which is required in Texas to challenge a denied refund claim, El Paso Electric cited the Texas sales tax manufacturing exemption as one of its grounds for challenging the refund denial. Specifically, El Paso Electric cited Texas Tax Code section 151.318(a)(4), which includes the term “telemetry units that are related to the step-down transformers” among a list of around fifty different items that are exempt from sales tax when used as part of the manufacturing process in Texas. The Texas Comptroller argued that, because El Paso Electric did not explicitly tie the telemetry units related to step-down transformers directly to the code section citation, El Paso Electric was barred from raising those claims during its administrative hearing. The administrative law judge agreed and overruled El Paso Electric’s claim that its telemetry units were exempt under Texas Tax Code section 151.318(a)(4). El Paso Electric then sued in Texas District Court, which overruled the administrative law judge and granted El Paso Electric’s refund claim. The Texas Comptroller later appealed, and the Texas Third Court of Appeals once again overturned the district court, ruling for the Texas Comptroller. This latest opinion withdraws the earlier Third Court of Appeals opinion and issues a new opinion.