February 4, 2005
TAX DISCLOSURE FOR COMPANIES RECEIVING STATE TAX EXEMPTIONS AND CREDITS
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked whether other states require companies receiving state tax exemptions or credits to publicly disclose their tax returns or information from their tax returns.
Although several states, including Connecticut, require particular state agencies to file reports with aggregate information concerning state tax credits and exemptions (known as “tax expenditures”), only four states currently require any sort of public disclosure of state income tax or tax credit information by companies or individuals. These states are Arkansas, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The first three state laws apply only to businesses, while Wisconsin's applies to both businesses and individuals.
Massachusetts' law requires the most detailed information, but although it makes most of the reported information public, it prohibits public disclosure of a company's name and address. The other three states make company names public but publicly reveal less information about them. Arkansas requires companies to disclose the total tax benefits they receive, West Virginia requires companies to disclose their total tax credits within specified ranges, and Wisconsin requires disclosure of the net tax paid.
The four state laws are summarized below. For your further information, here is a link to a draft version of “Public Disclosure of Corporate Tax Return Information: Accounting, Economics, and Legal Perspectives,” by David Lenter, Douglas Shakelford, and Joel Slemrod. The final version of this paper was presented at a 2003 conference on corporate tax disclosure sponsored by the University of North Carolina Tax Center, the Brookings-Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, and the National Tax Association. Among other things, the paper summarizes the history of corporate tax disclosure in the United States and discusses tax disclosure laws in other countries.
Arkansas law generally makes tax records confidential. But it allows the Director of the Department of Finance and Administration to disclose the name of the taxpayer and the amount of any of the following state tax credits, rebates, discounts, or collection commissions the taxpayer receives:
1. discount for prompt tax payment,
2. economic investment tax credit,
3. steel mill tax incentive,
4. motor fuel shrinkage allowance,
5. commissions for selling cigarette tax stamps and collecting cigarette taxes,
6. tax benefits under the Motion Picture Incentive Act of 1983,
7. credit, on severance taxes on oil and gas producers,
8. motor fuel tax refunds for municipal buses,
9. distillate special fuel tax refunds to interstate users,
10. severance tax credits for discovering commercial oil pools,
11. subsidies and incentive grants for producing native wines,
12. native wine export incentives, and
13. any other non-income-tax incentive enacted after January 1, 1991.
The law bars disclosure if the information would give an advantage to competitors or bidders or is exempt from disclosure under any other law requiring specific information to be kept private. The director must give the taxpayer whose information is requested adequate notice of up to seven days before releasing the information (Ark. Code, §26-18-303(b)(11)).
Massachusetts requires that every corporation, bank, and insurance company doing business in the state and required to report to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission or to corresponding state banking or insurance authorities, file an annual form with the secretary of the state showing specified financial and tax data.
For corporations, the report must include:
1. the company's exact name and the address of its principal office;
2. if the company files a combined return, the names and addresses of all included affiliates;
3. the tax year for which the report is filed;
4. the company's gross receipts or sales;
5. gross profit or excess tax credit;
6. income subject to apportionment;
7. total non-income tax excise; and
8. amount of each tax credit taken.
The company's treasurer or assistant treasurer must swear to the form under penalty of perjury. The company must file the form by March 1 annually. The filing requirement took effect in 1995.
The following types of corporations must file applicable variations of the same form: banks, domestic and foreign life insurance companies, domestic and foreign property and casualty insurance companies, and preferred provider companies. Taxpayers may also file supplemental information. They must amend their forms within 30 days after final determination of any change in a form entry.
When he receives a report, the secretary of the state must assign it a random identification number, which must also be used for the company's reports and any amendments to them in subsequent years. The secretary must make the reports available to the public, without the company names and addresses, by April 1 annually (Mass. Gen. Laws, Ch. 62C, § 83).
West Virginia law requires the state tax commissioner to publish annually in the state register the name; address; and amount, by category, of any of the following state tax credits a taxpayer receives:
1. business investment and jobs expansion credit;
2. credits for (a) industrial expansion and revitalization, (b) research and development, (c) certain housing development projects, (d) management information services, (e) industrial facilities producing coal-based liquids used to produce synthetic fuels, or (f) aerospace industrial facility investments;
3. credit for coal loading facilities;
4. credits for reducing electric, gas, or telephone utility rates for certain low-income residential customers;
5. strategic research and development tax credits;
6. manufacturing investment tax credits; and
7. credits under the Venture Capital Company Act.
The credit amount categories are:
$ 50,000 or less
$ 50,001 - $100,000
$100,001 - $250,000
$250,001 - $500,000
$500,001 - $1,000,000
The law specifies that no tax return information the state tax commissioner receives from the Internal Revenue Service or any other state's tax department may be disclosed in a way that is inconsistent with federal law or other states' confidentiality requirements (W. Va. Code, §11-10-5s).
Wisconsin requires its Department of Revenue to disclose the net Wisconsin income, franchise, or gift tax reported as payable in returns filed by any individual or corporation for any year on request. The law requires the person asking for the information to disclose who he or she is and to sign a statement
providing his address and his reason for asking for the information. Within 24 hours after providing the information, the department must notify the taxpayer whose return has been requested. The notice must give the requestor's name and address and his reason for obtaining the information. The fee for each request is $4.
The person asking for the information must be a Wisconsin resident and must not be asking for the direct or indirect benefit of any out-of-state person or business (Wis. Stat., §71.78 (2), (3)). Wisconsin enacted its disclosure law in 1923.