By Zachary Atkins & Prentiss Willson

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) refused to allow a taxpayer, a financial institution, to assign its loan portfolios based on the location of third-party loan servicing activities for purposes of calculating its financial institution excise tax property factor. The taxpayer earned flow-through interest income through its residual beneficial interests in trusts that owned securitized student loans. The taxpayer was a holding company and did not have employees, payroll, tangible property or office space but, as indicated on its tax returns, it had a principal office in Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts law, a loan is located in Massachusetts if it is properly assigned, based on a preponderance of substantive contacts, to the taxpayer’s regular place of business in the state. Second, when the taxpayer assigns a loan to a place outside Massachusetts that is not a regular place of business, there is a rebuttable presumption that the preponderance of substantive contacts with respect to the loan occur in the Commonwealth if the taxpayer’s commercial domicile was in the Commonwealth at the time the loan was made. The taxpayer, which did not have a regular place of business in Massachusetts, assigned the loans to locations of third-party loan servicers outside Massachusetts and reported a zero property factor for each of the tax years at issue. The SJC determined that the loans in question did not have any substantive contacts in Massachusetts because the taxpayer did not have a regular place of business in Massachusetts. Consequently, the SJC upheld the Appellate Tax Board’s determination that, according to the default rule, the loans were assignable to Massachusetts because the taxpayer’s commercial domicile was in Massachusetts. First Marblehead Corp. v. Comm’r of Revenue, No. SJC-11609 (Mass. Jan. 28, 2015)