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Transaction Taxes

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In City & County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of Proposition C, Dkt. A158645 (Cal. App., June 30, 2020), the California Court of Appeal upheld Proposition C—a voter initiative that created a new local business tax in San Francisco.  The court upheld the initiative that was enacted by a simple majority of electors.  This ruling answers a question that was been heavily debated since the California Supreme Court’s decision in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 3 Cal. 5th 924 (Cal. 2017).  That is, do special taxes proposed by voter initiative require a supermajority of voters to pass?  This decision expressly narrows the supermajority requirement to only those tax measures proposed directly by local governments and will likely trigger more tax initiatives proposed and passed by citizen groups.

States and local jurisdictions continue to grapple with novel tax issues in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  On Friday, March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), a $2 trillion federal stimulus package to provide fiscal relief in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The CARES Act includes numerous tax relief provisions.  States will need to consider whether, and how, they will conform to the federal provisions.

States continue to provide relief in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  This week, numerous states responded to the federal income tax filing extension, and we expect additional states to respond in the coming days.  Some states are also offering relief for non-income business taxes, and much of the relief is limited to small- to mid-size businesses.  Furthermore, COVID-19 is causing complications in property tax assessments, payments, and appeals.

Since our previous blog post, several more states have provided tax relief by extending filing and payment deadlines in response to the COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) outbreak.  However, numerous state tax departments are also canceling in-person customer service, which could make it more difficult for taxpayers to receive timely answers to their filing questions.  We are also seeing the continued impact of COVID-19 on state and local tax litigation as more state courts and administrative tribunals adjourn hearing dates or move to conduct certain proceedings remotely.