The Franchise Tax Board, California’s taxing authority, has consistently taken an aggressive stance in claiming out-of-state businesses have income tax reporting requirements for “doing business in California.” The FTB reached a limit in Swart Enterprises, Inc. v. Franchise Tax Board, Cal. Ct. App. (5th App. Dist.), 7 Cal. App. 5th 497 (2017). In that case, a California appeals court ruled against the FTB’s claim that a foreign corporation with a passive .02% ownership in a California LLC was doing business in California. As a result, the FTB was forced to modify its ruling on doing business in California by members of multi-member limited liability companies.
FTB Walks Back Prior Ruling
Specifically, the FTB has modified California FTB Legal Ruling No. 2014-01, 07/22/2014, which sets forth the FTB’s analysis on a number of “doing business” scenarios involving members of multiple-member LLCs that are classified as partnerships for tax purposes. The ruling had asserted that the distinction between “manager-managed” and “member-managed” LLCs, made no difference in determining whether a member of the LLC was doing business in California. The reasoning in Swart Enterprises made that assertion untenable. As a result, the FTB has removed the language and replaced it with the innocuous phrase: “a narrow exception may apply in limited circumstances.” Continue reading