Beginning last year, the corporate section of the Tax Expenditure Budget includes other business excises along with the corporate excise. These additional business excise taxes are the financial institution excise, the public utility excise, the excises on insurance companies, and the excise on security corporations. The financial institution excise and the public utility excise are structured similarly to the corporate excise. They begin with federal net income with certain Massachusetts modifications, proceed to additional Massachusetts deductions, apply the appropriate apportionment percentage, apply the appropriate tax rate to compute the excise due before credits and apply credits to reach the total excise due. The revenue estimates for the items in the list will now reflect their use by financial institutions and public utilities. Note that virtually all of the expenditure items are unavailable to insurance companies as these companies are not taxed on net income. However, insurance companies can apply certain credits to reduce their excises. Credits available to insurance companies are so indicated within the item descriptions and the revenue estimates for these credits will reflect their use.
In Fiscal Year 2012, revenues from the corporate excise and the other business excises mentioned above represented 11.0% of total Department of Revenue tax collections. Together these taxes ranked third in Fiscal Year 2012 in terms of total taxes collected, after the individual income tax and the sales and use tax.
The corporate excise was enacted in 1919, replacing a corporate franchise tax, which was levied on the value of capital stock. Initially, the corporate excise was imposed on corporate excess and on net income.
In 1962, the corporate excess measure was repealed. The corporate excise tax is now levied on tangible property or net worth (depending on the mix of property held by the corporation) and on net income.
Tax Base: Most business corporations are subject to tax under the corporate excise which has three components: an income measure, a non-income measure, and a minimum excise.
The income measure of the tax is based on net income for federal tax purposes with certain additions, such as interest earned on state obligations, and certain deductions, most of which are allowable under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Many of the deductions are considered to be part of the basic structure. For example, in providing for depreciation deductions, the basic structure would allow the cost of property to be written-off evenly over its useful life (so-called “straight-line depreciation”). However, rules that allow accelerated depreciation deductions are listed as tax expenditures.
Under the non-income measure, corporations with qualifying tangible assets in Massachusetts that equal or exceed 10% of their qualifying total assets in Massachusetts (apportioned according to their income apportionment percentage) are taxed on the value of their tangible property. Other corporations are taxed on a net worth basis.
The minimum excise is $456.
Taxable Unit: A corporation is a taxpayer separate and distinct from its shareholders.
Rate Structure: Since January 2010, the rates have been scheduled to decline (see Appendix A for further details). However, the minimum excise remains unchanged at $456. Corporate tax expenditure items take into account these tax rate changes. The current (TY2013) excise rate on C-corporations is 8.00% of net income apportioned to Massachusetts, and $2.60 per $1,000 of the value of Massachusetts tangible property or net worth allocable to Massachusetts. The excise rate on S-corporations is 2.75% for companies with total receipts greater than $9M, and 1.83% for companies with total receipts between $6M and $9M. The tax rate on tangible property or net worth is the same as for C-corporations.
Taxable Period and Net Operating Loss Carry-forward: The taxable periods for corporations are diverse and can be chosen by each tax filer. Estimated payments are made every three months during the taxable period. Net operating loss carry-forwards are allowed for future deductions. Before January 2010, qualifying losses could be carried forward up to five years. However, there was a statutory expansion of the general NOL carry-forward period from 5 to 20 years for business corporations. Refer to Appendix A for details.
Interstate and International Aspects: All domestic and foreign corporations with nexus in Massachusetts are subject to the corporate excise. Corporations are required to apportion their net incomes if they have incomes from business activity that is taxable in another jurisdiction using a formula based on the proportions of corporate real and tangible personal property, payroll, and sales that are located in Massachusetts. Under certain circumstances, taxpayers may petition for, or the Commissioner may impose, alternative methods of accounting to reflect more fairly a taxpayer's income from business operations in Massachusetts.
Combined Reporting: Since January 1, 2009, Massachusetts has required certain businesses engaged in a unitary business to calculate their income on a combined basis. A corporation is subject to this requirement if it is subject to a tax on its income under Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L). c. 63, s.2, s.2B, s.32D, s.39 or s.52A and it is engaged in a unitary business with one or more other corporations under common control, whether or not the other corporations are taxable in Massachusetts. Those certain businesses can be general corporations, financial institutions, or public utilities. Note that combined reporting does not apply to the non-income measure of corporate excise.
The other business excises possess some different features from the corporate excise. First, many of the financial institutions and public utilities still do not qualify for combined reporting, and no insurance companies are subject to combined reporting. Second, these businesses are not allowed to take net operating loss deductions. Third, financial institutions and public utility companies weigh the three apportionment factors (sales, payroll, property) equally. Fourth, the main tax base of insurance companies is the insurance premiums those companies have charged. Fifth, some credits such as the investment tax credit are not applicable to these businesses. There are some additional differences. For further details, refer to the applicable tax return forms. The basic structures of the excises for these businesses are described in the diagrams that follow.
|Base of Tax||Tax Rate||Retaliatory
|63‑20P||Life Insurance||Domestic||Taxable life, accident and health insurance premiums, net value of policies||2% on life and acc./health ins. premiums||N/A|
|Life Insurance||Foreign||Taxable life insurance premiums attributable to Massachusetts, accident and health insurance premiums||2% on all premiums||Yes|
|63‑23P||Insurance Companies, except Life Insurance or Ocean Marine||Domestic||Taxable (non-life) insurance premiums and gross investment income||2.28% on premiums; then: 1%, 0.8%, 0.6%, 0.4%, 0.2% or 0.0% on investment income||N/A|
|Insurance Companies, except Life Insurance or Ocean Marine||Foreign||Taxable premiums for insurance of property or interests attributable to Massachusetts||2.28%||Yes|
|Preferred Providers (Accident and Health Insurers, Nonprofit Hospitals, HMO's, and other nonprofit medical, optometric or dental companies)||Domestic and Foreign||Gross premiums for coverage of persons who reside in Massachusetts||2.28%||N/A|
As with the personal income tax, the basic structure of the corporate excise tax is subject to several different types of modifications that can produce tax expenditures.
Exclusions from Gross Income: Gross income is the starting point in the calculation of the income component of the corporate excise. In the absence of tax expenditures, it would include all income received from all sources. Items of income that are excluded from gross income escape taxation permanently.
Deferrals of Gross Income: Where an item of income is not included in gross income in the year when it is actually received, but is instead included in a later year, the result is a tax expenditure in the form of an interest-free loan from the state to the taxpayer in the amount of the tax payment that is postponed.
Deductions from Gross Income: Certain amounts are subtracted from gross income to arrive at taxable income. Many of these deducted amounts reflect the costs of producing income (business expenses) and are not included in the corporate income measure of excise; such deductions are not tax expenditures. Other deductions, which do not reflect business expenses, but permit income to escape taxation permanently, do constitute tax expenditures.
Accelerated Deductions from Gross Income: In a number of cases, corporations are allowed to deduct business expenses from gross income at a time earlier than such expenses would ordinarily be recognized under accepted accounting principles. The total amount of the permissible deduction is not increased but it can be utilized more quickly to reduce taxable income. The result is to defer taxes, thus in effect occasioning an interest-free loan from the state to the taxpayer.
Adjustments to Apportionment Formula: In the case of a business that earns income both inside and outside the Commonwealth, an apportionment formula is used to determine what portion of the total business income to allocate to Massachusetts for the calculation of corporate excise. When the standard formula is adjusted to reduce the apportionment ratios for certain businesses, tax expenditures result. The practical effect is to exclude certain portions of those business incomes from taxation.
Exclusions from Property Component: In addition to the excise based on income, corporations pay the excise tax based on the value of their property in the state. To the extent that certain classes of property are not included in the excise’s property measure, tax expenditures result.
Credits against Tax: After a corporation has computed its basic tax liability, it may subtract certain credit amounts in determining the actual amount of taxes due. It is important to note that, whereas one-dollar exclusion or deduction results in tax savings of only a few cents (one dollar times the applicable tax rate), one-dollar credit results in one-dollar tax savings.
Entity Exempt from Taxation: In some cases, a business or other entity may be completely exempt from taxation. To the extent businesses or investment incomes go untaxed, tax expenditures result.