The Nevada State Legislature kept the business community waiting until the end of the 80th legislative session last month.
On June 3, the last day the legislature was in session and on deadline, the Senate and Assembly passed several key bills that will affect taxes for years to come and kept some taxes on businesses from expiring. These actions are cause for potential strife in the business community, said Cindy Creighton, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association.
While the legislative decisions will affect Nevada for the next several years, the full affect of the measures won’t be known for some time, but Creighton said she would take the time to analyze the outcome of the session before sending out a memo to the association’s membership.
“Obviously the Legislature did so much more, but the tax measures were fairly contentious,” Creighton said. “Right now, though, until the next session, this is what we’re dealing with.”
A tax bill receiving the most discussions during the session was Senate Bill 551, which indefinitely extended a payroll tax originally set to sunset on July 1.
Initially implemented during the 2015 legislative session, the now extended tax will generate nearly $100 million over the next biennium, which could help Governor Steve Sisolak accomplish his goal of balancing the budget.
An amendment was made that would add $17 million to the budget for school safety initiatives, along with $72 million for teacher pay raises and $9.5 million for the Opportunity Scholarship program. And, $53 million of those school funds would end up in Clark County.
The bill was fraught with back and forth, originally garnering an amendment to require a two-third vote in an attempt to help sway Republican lawmakers to vote for the Democratic-led measure. However, holding a majority, the 5-3 vote along party lines passed anyway.
“We have an opportunity to take a funding source that will be there in the future and put it towards education,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said on the floor. “If that’s not what we’re here to do, then I’m not sure why we’re here at all.”
While the extended payroll tax won’t be a new tax for businesses, it could be one businesses hadn’t budgeted for, Creighton said, as it was set to expire.
“If businesses were thinking it was going to be reduced, that reduction for a regular business could be significant,” she said. “The percentages might sound insignificant, but it raises $98 million. It isn’t insignificant numbers, they’re quite large.”
She did mention there was some debate along what this bill passage meant for new businesses, whether it truly was an existing tax or one they’re already paying. No matter the outcome of the discussion, she said it does create a permanent revenue stream to support education that would have otherwise gone away.
“The business community will weigh all those issues,” she said. “They thought it was only going to be enacted until July 1 this year. Now, they’ll adjust.”
During the session, Nevada Department of Taxation Director Melanie Young said the department would follow a number of taxation bills through the legislature, including Senate Bill 81, Senate Bill 447 and Senate Bill 533 and would monitor for any potential impact from the bills.
Senate Bill 81 and Senate Bill 447 both passed, dealing with tobacco products and digitally transferred product taxation, respectively.
A bill the Department of Tax was watching that didn’t pass was Assembly Bill 533, which would create a regulatory structure for the cannabis industry, that would help keep the industry “clean and successful,” according to Young. The bill was stalled on the floor as the deadline passed.
“Our marijuana industry has become a key part of our state economy,” Young said in an email. “In order to keep it that way, we need to hold the industry to the highest standard while empowering the industry to continue to thrive.”
According to Creighton, another major taxation bill that passed, minutes prior to the June 3 midnight deadline was Senate Bill 543. The bill passed with bipartisan help from six Republican lawmakers. The bill cleans up an old funding equation for Nevada’s public schools, by sending money to individual low-income students, students with special needs or those who are learning English. The current formula gives money to schools with higher percentage of those students.
The version of the Bill 543 that passed on June 3 gives Governor Sisolak the ability to work with funding increases if the state or nation faces another recession. The bill also gives the Department of Education extra responsibility over the new education commission, which helped garner some opposition support.
The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) is not a supporter of the new measure. A statement from the NSEA following the passage of the bill called it, “tainted from the beginning.”
“None of these issues were addressed in the proposed amendment,” NSEA President Ruben Murillo said in a statement. “In fact, the strongest provision in the original bill to ensure a maintenance of effort in school funding was completely removed, making the requirement for funding completely dependent on the will of the governor. Moreover, the new language still allows for the supplanting of new and additional funding like IP1.”
IP1 or Iniative Petition 1 refers to the State Supplemental School Support Tax. The 2009 initiative raised dollars to supplement the per-pupil spending in Nevada.
Earlier on June 3, legislatures passed Assembly Bill 309, which will allow municipalities to raise sales taxes a quarter of a cent to help with school funding. The funds can also be used to address issues like homelessness and affordable housing. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, the tax would generate $21 million in Washoe County.
Creighton said it’ll be up in the air for some time as counties decide whether or not to enact the sales tax hike, which has to be voted on either by county commissioners or the voting public. She expects some of the state’s 17 counties to enact the measure and some to forgo it, which could pose an interesting question to the state’s residents.
“If they don’t all do it, my question would be: Are different counties able to give different educational opportunities since some will have this extra money and some won’t?” Creighton asked.
Paying the Minimum
For companies paying minimum wages, they could see a tax hike.
The legislature passed Assembly Bill 456, which bumps up the minimum wage $0.75 to $8 an hour if health insurance is provided. A ladder of annual $0.75 increases until the minimum wage reaches $11 was also implemented. The tiered system which has companies not offering health insurance paying $8.25 an hour will rise to $9 an hour with the same $0.75 increases until it reaches $12 an hour.
“If businesses are paying the minimum, they can expect some increases,” Creighton said.
Local employers will also take note of Senate Bill 312, which requires companies with more than 50 employees to offer, at minimum, .01923 hours of paid leave for each hour worked. Senate Bill 166, meanwhile, addresses companies that knowingly pay women less than their male counterparts for the same work.
“Working Nevadans across the state will wake up the morning of June 4, 2019, better off than they were the day before because of the historic measures we passed this legislative session,” Governor Sisolak said in a statement on June 4 following the lengthy deadline session.
Not necessarily directly tax related, but Creighton was quick to mention several other bills that passed that could influence taxpayers.
Assembly Bill 50 mandates municipal elections be held on even years, which will streamline the election process and save money, she said.
Additionally, looking forward to the 2020 Census, Creighton was excited about Senate Bill 504, which helps fund education and outreach in preparation for the census, which could result in Nevada receiving more representation on a national level.
“Everything is based on the census and we’re very proud of this session in addressing some of those measure and municipal elections going to even years,” she said. “It’s a lot of positive things.”
While it was an eventful spring for the Nevada legislature when it comes to taxes, the nation has been adapting to President Donald Trump’s tax policies since he took office in 2017.
Recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data showed U.S. companies paid $91 billion less in taxes in 2018, the first full year of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, paying closer to $262.7 billion instead of the $338.5 billion in 2017 and $345.5 billion in 2016.
The lower tax payments were accompanied by larger refunds. Taxpayers received an estimated $60.1 billion in refunds in 2018, opposed to the $44.8 billion the year before. All told, U.S. companies are set to save $1.4 trillion by 2027.
Along with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, companies were able to lower their effective tax rate to 7 percent according to a report by Yahoo Finance, using writes-offs and tax credits.
The breaks were believed by Republicans to spur investment and stock buybacks, and while both increased modestly, the Tax Policy Center was unsure the increases were solely because of the new tax rules. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) reported that economists largely believe the Tax Cuts and Job Act’s positive influence on GDP will fade later this year.
Many of those breaks and loop holes were left in place by the new policies, said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
“There are a lot of breaks and loopholes that allow a company not to pay,” Wamhoff told Yahoo Finance. “People, when they think of tax reform, think the government is going to fix the tax code and get rid of breaks and loopholes and get rid of tax dodging. What we got at the end of 2017 was not that. It was the opposite of that. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act left a lot of special breaks and loopholes in place and created some new ones.”
The decline in tax credits has added to the national debt, which is now $22 trillion. The IRS did collect $2 trillion in individual tax returns, almost $100 billion more than in 2017.
Taxes will remain in the limelight as the U.S. heads into the 2020 Presidential Election. President Trump will, in all likelihood, tout the benefits of his policies while the Democratic challengers will point out flaws.
As the future is uncertain nationally, so too will be the effects of some of Nevada’s new tax policies and only time will tell how effective they are now or how they’ll change again in the future.
INSPIRED TO TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF TAXES
Remember when the word accountant would conjure an image of someone working frantically amidst a mountain of paper, green visor atop their noggin, pocket protector carefully lined with finely sharpened pencils, a slight shake in their hand from the dangerous level of caffeine consumed tallying whatever it is that accountants tally (most likely beans)? You rarely saw one during the light of day January through mid-April and weren’t quite sure what they did the rest of the year. On the rare occasion you had the opportunity to chat with one, they spoke in their own language—section 368 reorg, section 1033 involuntary conversions, 263A, etc.
Those days are long gone. Today’s accountants are business advisors who are client centric. They build relationships, listen to clients to understand their businesses, obstacles and opportunities so they can provide innovative, proactive solutions.
As the largest tax reform legislation in the past 30 years becomes reality, it is important to stay ahead. Businesses
are facing changes with tax rates, expenses, accounting methods and more. Tax planning is most effective when it is done proactively, through ongoing and year-round conversations. This will help you plan for the future and ensure compliance.
The goal of tax planning is almost as universal as taxes themselves: Keep more of your money in your pocket. How that happens can come in any number of ways, depending on your circumstances—credits, deductions, business structure and more can all be valuable options. But how can you figure out the best strategy to achieve your short and long-term goals? That’s when the right advisor can help you the most.
We provide you with timely and accurate planning and return preparation of federal and state tax returns. More importantly, we provide strategies and opportunities to minimize your federal and state tax burdens. Our goal is to help you minimize your tax liability. Our people are active in the development and review of tax legislation and work with you through industry groups to advocate for your needs.
Eide Bailly’s experienced, dedicated tax team spends every day solving tax problems, applying and interpreting tax law for people like you so they can minimize tax liability and risk, as well as save for the future. With more control over your taxes, you’ll gain peace of mind—and that’s something we all owe ourselves.
What inspires you, inspires us.
Independent member of HLB – the global advisory and accounting network.
Learn how to sponsor featured content by clicking here.