Business license taxes in Los Angeles, surrounding cities raise complex issues

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November 2018


Taxpayers conducting business in certain cities within Los Angeles County -- including the incorporated City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Santa Monica -- may be subject to annual business license taxes based upon gross receipts for the privilege of conducting business within city limits.

The business license taxes may be a trap for the unwary due to broad nexus standards and a challenge for compliant filers due to antiquated ordinances, lack of published guidance, and inconsistent audit practices.

Although each city has its own rules and practices, there are common elements, which  we have highlighted in this Insight.

The takeaway

The rules surrounding each local business license tax are unique and complex, and careful consideration should be given as to whether a filing obligation exists, what gross receipts are subject to taxation, and how such gross receipts should be apportioned.

The issues and concerns taxpayers should consider include:

  • Filing methodology. A review of historical filings may uncover potential refunds and/or exposures and help establish a go-forward filing methodology. Common areas of opportunity or exposure include the identification of gross receipts subject to or exempt from tax, apportionment methodologies, and business entity classification.
  • Negotiated filing agreements. Certain cities will enter into filing methodology agreements to limit the uncertainty of application of city rules.
  • Nexus. Determine whether a filing obligation exists.
  • Voluntary Disclosure Agreements. Consider the benefits of and negotiating voluntary disclosure agreements.
  • Audit support. Assistance navigating a city’s audit cycle may be valuable.
  • Annual compliance. Consider the internal burdens of complying with annual filing requirements.

Contact us

Peter Michalowski

Peter Michalowski

State and Local Tax Leader, PwC US

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