Over the years, too many corporations doing business in Illinois have had the unfortunate experience of receiving a notice of delinquency from the Office of the Secretary of State of Illinois (the “Secretary of State”) demanding immediate payment of additional franchise tax, penalties, and interest. Not to be confused with the Illinois corporate income tax, which is administered by the Illinois Department of Revenue, the Illinois franchise tax is codified in the Business Corporate Act of 1983, 805 ILCS 5/1.01, et seq. (the “BCA”), and is administered by the Secretary of State. The franchise tax is considered a fee for the privilege and protections of “incorporation”, and therefore only applies to “corporations” and not other business entities (e.g., LLCs, LLP, GPs, etc.). The Illinois franchise tax base is measured by a corporation’s Illinois “paid-in capital” — meaning, funds generated by corporations by issuing stock, plus additional cash/equity contributed by shareholders.
Massachusetts recently joined a handful of other states (read: States over the Edge and Testing Boundaries with Business Activity Tax Nexus) by issuing a final revised regulation adopting a bright-line, $500,000, nexus threshold for its corporate excise tax. See generally 830 CMR 63.39.1. Echoing the language of the Wayfair decision, the state’s revised nexus regulation provides that “the Commissioner will presume that a general business corporation’s virtual and economic contacts subject the corporation to the tax jurisdiction of Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 63, § 39, where the volume of the corporation’s Massachusetts sales for the taxable year exceeds five hundred thousand dollars.” 830 CMR 63.39.1(3)(d).
Wayfair has, for now, answered the question (at least, in part) of whether economic activity creates substantial nexus under the Commerce Clause for purposes of sales and use taxes. However, questions remain regarding whether and to what extent business activity tax nexus standards could be impacted. While states had boldly asserted economic nexus in the business activity tax context pre-Wayfair, the response since has been somewhat muted, until recently. Three states, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, have recently sought to fill in the blanks with regard to business activity tax nexus, with varied and inconsistent results that may raise more questions and concerns than answers.
On June 5, 2019, the Illinois legislature enacted Public Act 101-0009 which includes comprehensive amnesty programs covering taxes administered by both the Illinois Department of Revenue (the “Department”) and the Office of the Secretary of State of Illinois (the “Secretary of State”). Taxes covered by these programs include the corporate and individual income taxes, the Retailers’ Occupation Tax, the Use Tax, and the Illinois franchise tax. The amnesty programs run for the period October 1, 2019 through November 15, 2019, and, under both programs, 100% of penalties and interest will be waived in exchange for payment of any outstanding tax liability due. Unlike previous amnesty programs, taxpayers will not be punished for not participating — that is, Illinois will not impose double penalties and double interest on tax assessments issued after the amnesty period closes.