The unitary combined reporting method for state corporate income taxation has been adopted by an increasing number of states. While combined reporting requirements vary significantly from state to state, nearly all combined reporting regimes require or allow a water’s-edge method that limits the members of a group return to entities that are incorporated in the United States and meet other combined reporting requirements. 

The water’s-edge combined reporting method makes sense for many taxpayers and stems from criticisms and litigation aimed at the worldwide combined reporting method. Problems with worldwide combined reporting include compliance challenges associated with varying accounting methods required by other countries, conversion of foreign currencies, and even the lack of available data associated with non-U.S. entities.

There are instances when a domestic incorporated entity is largely engaged in business outside the United States. To help solve this problem, many states adopted the Pareto principle, which states that “for many outcomes, roughly 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of causes (the ‘vital few’).” Application of an 80/20 rule in the context of water’s-edge combined reporting requires taxpayers to include in a water’s-edge return those foreign entities that conduct at least 20 percent of their business in the United States (an inbound 80/20 company), and exclude those domestic corporations that conduct at least 80 percent of their businesses outside the United States (an outbound 80/20 company).

In this installment of A Pinch of SALT for Tax Notes State, Eversheds Sutherland attorneys Jeff Friedman, Cyavash Ahmadi and Laurin McDonald describe 80/20 rules used by states in the context of water’s-edge combined reporting and the compliance issues that can arise as a result.

Read the full article here.