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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.

In the closely watched “Paula Trust” case, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District held that all of a trust’s California source income is subject to California income tax even though one of the trustees was a nonresident. Steuer v. Franchise Tax Board, No. A154691 (Cal. Ct. App. 1st Dist. June 29, 2020). The trust’s non-California source income would be apportionable. California imposes income tax on 100% of a trust’s income if all trustees…

The California real estate transfer tax landscape experienced a seismic shift when the Supreme Court of California upheld the imposition of Los Angeles County’s Documentary Transfer Tax (“L.A. Transfer Tax”) on the transfer of a controlling interest in a partnership that indirectly owned Los Angeles real estate through an LLC.  926 North Ardmore Avenue, LLC v. County of Los Angeles, 219 Cal. Rptr. 3d 695 (Cal. June 29, 2017).  Specifically, the Court held “that the tax may be imposed if the document reflects a sale: that is, an actual transfer of legal beneficial ownership made for consideration.”

Major reform is coming to the way California administers its tax laws. On June 27, 2017, the Taxpayer Transparency and Fairness Act of 2017 (A.B. 102 or the “Act”), was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown after passing both the California Senate and Assembly with little resistance.  The Act fundamentally alters the administration of California’s tax laws by divesting the California State Board of Equalization (“Board”) of several of its key functions and assigning them to two new government agencies established by the Act: (1) the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (“Tax Department”); and (2) the Office of Tax Appeals.