Unlock State & Local Tax Deductions With A SALT Cap Workaround

June 22, 2021 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Updates: As states progress on SALT cap workaround legislation, I will update that news at the bottom of this post. Also, see my August 3, 2021 blog post, How to Deduct State and Local Taxes Above SALT Cap.

Since 2018, taxpayers living in high-tax states have been unable to take an itemized deduction of state and local taxes over a limitation (known as the “SALT” cap) of $10,000 per year. This limitation came from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and is effective for tax years 2018 through 2025. But the good news is that some states have a workaround, which I cover in this post.

On Nov. 9, 2020, Treasury and the IRS issued Notice 2020-75, which says they “intend to issue proposed regulations to clarify that State and local income taxes imposed on and paid by a partnership or an S corporation on its income are allowed as a deduction by the partnership or S corporation in computing its non-separately stated taxable income or loss for the taxable year of payment.”

The Workaround
To date, state laws for SALT cap workarounds vary, but the general idea is that a pass-through entity (PTE) assesses a tax at the state’s rate on individuals. The state then grants the respective owners of the PTE a tax credit on their state personal income tax return. The SALT cap only applies to individual taxes, not PTE entity-level taxes. Other states subject the PTE to an entity-level tax and then exclude that respective PTE income from the owner’s state tax return.

Check the latest news in your state to see if your state has enacted a SALT cap workaround when the tax law is effective (i.e., 2021 or 2022) and how it works. For example, Connecticut made the PTE tax mandatory for the SALT cap workaround strategy. Most of the other states make it elective, giving the taxpayer more choices; however, don’t miss the election deadline. Consult your tax advisor to see how this strategy might save you money and whether you should consider forming a pass-through entity soon in 2021.

Traders seem to qualify for the SALT cap workaround
Many traders eligible for trader tax status (TTS) already use a PTE like a spousal-member LLC/partnership or single-member LLC/S-Corp. TTS traders need an S-Corp to pay officer compensation to unlock health insurance and retirement plan deductions, which otherwise are not allowed on trading gains that are unearned income.

A TTS trader in securities, commodities, and other financial products, has business expense treatment. A TTS trader actively buys and sells capital assets with capital gains and losses, or Section 475 ordinary gains and losses, if elected on a timely basis.

Here’s an example: In 2021, Joe Trader pays $35,000 of state income taxes on the S-Corp level using a SALT cap workaround. His S-Corp net income is $500,000, subject to a state tax rate of 7%. Joe reaches his SALT cap of $10,000 with real estate taxes of $11,000, so he loses a $1,000 deduction. Joe deducts $35,000 of the S-Corp state taxes from his gross income saving $12,950 in federal taxes ($35,000 state tax deduction x 37% top marginal federal tax rate). Without a SALT cap workaround, Joe would have $36,000 of non-deductible SALT.

Next steps
Many accountants had taken a wait-and-see approach on SALT cap workaround strategies since IRS approval was uncertain before the November 2020 IRS notice mentioned above. In addition, the IRS and Treasury previously rejected recharacterizing SALT payments as charitable contributions, which a few states attempted.

This PTE tax approach is not foreign; some southeastern states use PTE composite returns to assess tax on non-resident owners. 

Some tax pundits expected the Biden administration to repeal the SALT cap. However, President Biden’s FY 2022 budget and recent infrastructure bills do not include the reversal of the SALT cap. Congressional Republicans are resistant to undermine TCJA. Some Congressional Democrats stated they might not support Biden’s infrastructure bills unless they fix the SALT cap. Stay tuned!

The PTE tax might be a better solution than pre-TCJA law when SALT was an itemized deduction and a preference for alternative minimum tax (AMT).

Updated news by state below

IRS Signals Approval of Entity-Level SALT Cap Workaround, But States Should Still Think Twice (Tax Foundation Nov. 11, 2020)
“Treasury and IRS signaled their intention to bless one type of state workaround for the $10,000 State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap: entity-level taxes that allow owners of pass-through businesses to pay an additional state tax at the business level, with an offsetting credit against their individual income tax liability. Since the SALT deduction cap does not apply to business taxes, this functionally allows these owners to avoid the cap, since the entity-level tax substitutes for their income tax payment, which would have been subject to a capped deduction.”

“Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin have all adopted entity-level taxes which offer credits against the owners’ personal tax liability. In Connecticut, the entity-level tax is mandatory. In the other six states, it is elective; business owners can choose to pay it and claim the credit, or may decline if it is not in their best interest to go that route.”

New Jersey enacts SALT deduction cap workaround (Grant Thorton Feb. 14, 2020)

California Lawmakers, Governor Float SALT Cap Workaround Plans (Bloomberg Tax Jan. 14, 2021)
“A new California Senate bill (SB 104) would give pass-throughs—partnerships, limited liability companies, and S corporations—the option to pay an entity-level income tax that would be fully deductible. The bill doesn’t specify a tax rate yet. Individuals who are members of those businesses would exclude the amount the entity pays from their gross income.” (Governor) Newsom’s proposal is narrower, applying only to S corporations. It would give those businesses the option to pay a 13.3% income tax rather than the 1.5% that California currently imposes on S corporations. Shareholders would get a tax credit equal to 13.3% of their passed-through income. Under current California law, an S corporation’s income is also taxable at the shareholder level.”
Calif. Gov. Updates Budget With Tax Rebates, SALT Workaround (Law360 May 14, 2021)
California budget deal reached: More stimulus payments and tax relief (Spidell News June 28, 2021)
“The Governor and legislative leaders announced that they have reached a budget deal. Major tax-related items contained in the deal include an elective passthrough entity tax, which provides a work-around to the $10,000 SALT deduction limitation for owners of passthrough entities…These provisions are contained in draft legislation that has not yet been enacted, although it is anticipated that these bills will be passed within the next week or two.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/
SALT Cap Workaround, Tax Credit Boosts Go To California Governor (Bloomberg Tax July 1, 2021)
“A California workaround to the $10,000 federal cap on state and local tax deductions, expanded tax credits, and new grants for businesses are included in bills lawmakers sent Thursday to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Tax policy changes in a bill lawmakers passed Thursday (A.B. 150) include a workaround for the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions for S corporations and their shareholders. The corporations could pay 9.3% income tax rather than the 1.5% rate California currently imposes. Shareholders would get a tax credit equal to 9.3% of their passed-through income. The workaround would be in effect for taxable years 2021 through 2025 and taxpayers would have to use the option on original, timely filed tax returns.
Calif. Joins States With SALT Cap Workaround (Law360 July 16, 2021)
“Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed A.B. 150… he reiterated his position that the cap on the SALT deduction should be lifted but said California would provide “a partial fix” for S corporations and other pass-throughs. California’s SALT workaround for pass-through entities will be an elective tax that the entity pays on behalf of partners. The partners can then receive a credit. The tax rate will be 9.3% and will fall on the distributive shares of income of the partners. Individual partners can choose not to consent, but the entity can still elect to pay the tax. Those partners who do consent will get a nonrefundable credit that equals the amount of tax paid by the entity on the partners’ behalf. The pass-through workaround will begin for tax year 2021 and sunset after tax year 2025, according to the analysis.”
SALT workaround elective passthrough entity tax (Spidell’s California Minute July 18, 2021)

New York Includes SALT Cap Workaround in Budget Deal (Bloomberg April 6, 2021)
“The deal between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Democratic legislative leaders, announced Tuesday, would allow pass-through businesses to pay taxes at the entity level. The entity-level tax would be offset by a corresponding individual income tax credit.”
New York Governor Signs Bill That Could Provide Pass-Through Entities a SALT Deduction Cap Workaround (NYSSCPA April 10, 2021)
New York State Budget Provides A Work Around To The Federal SALT Cap For Certain Business Entities (Forbes May 27, 2021)

Alabama Lawmakers Advance Changes to SALT Cap Workaround (Tax Notes April 15, 2021)

La. Senate Approves SALT Cap Workaround For Pass-Throughs (Law360 May 23, 2021)

SALT Workarounds Spread to More States as Democrats Seek Repeal (Bloomberg Tax April 27, 2021)
“Seven states, including California and Illinois, are poised to join nearly a dozen others like New York and New Jersey that have skirted around the federal cap on state and local tax deductions as the prospect of a federal fix remains elusive. New York and Idaho both recently passed legislation to work around the controversial 2017 tax law feature known as the SALT cap. Georgia and Arizona are awaiting their governors’ approvals of similar SALT cap workarounds, and lawmakers in California, Massachusetts, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina are debating bills of the same nature.” (See the state map of states included in the workaround.)

Massachusetts Lawmakers Push SALT Cap Workaround in Budget (Bloomberg Tax May 11, 2021)
Mass. Senate OKs Budget With Child Credit, SALT Workaround (Law360 June 2, 2021)
“The pass-through provision is similar to other entity-level taxes that states have either enacted or are considering as a workaround to the $10,000 state and local tax deduction cap. The pass-through entity-level tax provisions would take effect for taxable years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2021.”
Mass. Legislators Pass Budget With SALT Workaround, Credits (Law360 July 9, 2021)
“The Massachusetts Legislature unanimously passed a fiscal year 2022 budget Friday that would establish an entity-level tax for pass-through businesses…would allow an entity-level tax on pass-throughs and provide a credit against a member’s share of that tax.”
Mass. Gov.’s Budget Creates Tax Credits, Vetoes Deduction Delay (Law360 July 19, 2021)
“Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed the budget bill while returning to the Legislature a provision that would allow an entity-level tax on pass-throughs and provide a credit against a member’s share of that tax, asking it to increase the credit portion. Baker returned the pass-through provision to the state Legislature with proposed amendments that would increase a member’s credit from 90% of their share in the entity’s tax to 100% of their tax share, saying that taxpayers should collect the full benefit as struggling businesses emerge from the pandemic. The pass-through entity-level tax provisions will take effect for taxable years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2021.”
Massachusetts Lawmakers Override Governor on SALT Cap Fix (1) (Bloomberg Tax July 29, 2021)
“Both the governor and lawmakers agreed to a SALT cap fix that would allow individuals to get around the $10,000 deduction limit by having pass-through entities they are members of, like S corporations, pay the 5% state excise tax, instead of having income flow to individual members for taxation. The lawmakers’ measure, however, would allow the individual members a credit equal to the share of state taxes owed, multiplied by 0.9. This would bring in $90 million annually to the state, they estimate. Baker had wanted a 100% credit for individual members.” 
Capital gains and Section 475 ordinary income is taxed at the 12% rate. 

SC Offers SALT Cap Workaround Through Entity-Level Tax (Law360 May 19, 2021)
“Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed S.B. 627 on Monday, allowing partnerships and S corporations to make an annual election to pay a 3% tax at the entity level while offering a corresponding income exclusion for owners and partners. The bill will take effect starting in tax year 2021.”

Illinois Assembly Approves SALT Workarounds for Partnerships (Bloomberg Tax May 31, 2021)

SALT Workaround for Pass-Throughs Advances to Michigan Governor (Bloomberg Tax June 23, 2021)
“The SALT cap workaround bill (H.B. 4288) could provide roughly $190 million in federal tax relief for Michigan businesses without costing the state a dime, according to a legislative fiscal statement. The measure would let pass-through businesses pay state and local taxes at the entity level starting in tax year 2021, allowing the full deduction of these taxes on federal returns instead of limiting the deduction amount the entity owners can currently claim on their flow-through income.”
Mich. Gov. Vetoes SALT Deduction Cap Workaround Bill (Law360, July 14, 2021).
Michigan’s governor vetoed a bill seeking to create an entity-level tax for pass-through businesses to sidestep the federal cap on state and local tax deductions, saying the bill’s $5 million cost to implement should be part of broader budget negotiations.

Democrats consider ‘SALT’ relief for state and local tax deductions (NBC News June 24, 2021)

Georgia Enacts Salt Cap Workaround For Tax Years Starting In 2022 (Windham Brannon)
House Bill 149, which was signed into law, creates a SALT cap workaround for Georgia partnerships and subchapter S corporations.”

Maryland’s SALT Workaround: Impacts and Planning Opportunities (March 12, 2021)

Rhode Island Budgets For Salt Workaround (Aug. 2019)

Wisconsin enacts SALT deduction workaround with pass-through tax (Dec. 17, 2018)

IRS Provides Clarity Regarding Oklahoma’s Salt Cap Workaround (March 3, 2021)

North Carolina Republicans Introduce SALT Cap Workaround (Tax Notes April 8, 2021)

Ore. Senate OKs Trimming Biz Tax Break, SALT Workaround (Law360, June 17, 2021)
“Under S.B. 727, the state would create an elective entity-level tax on qualifying pass-through entities. The tax rate would be 9% for the first $250,000 of income and 9.9% for income above $250,000. If an entity elects to pay the tax, the owners would be allowed an offsetting tax credit to claim on their personal income tax returns.”

Colo. Lawmakers OK Entity-Level Taxation To Skirt SALT Cap (Law360, June 9, 2021)
“Under the bill, the state would allow pass-through entities to elect to pay an entity-level tax for income tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The entity-level tax rate would be 4.55%, the same as the state’s flat income tax rate.”
Colo. Limits Tax Breaks, OKs SALT Workaround In Tax Overhaul (Law360, June 24, 2021)
Gov. signed “H.B. 1327 provides for the entity-level tax to circumvent the $10,000 SALT cap.”

Pa. Bill Seeks Entity-Level Tax To Bypass SALT Deduction Cap (Law360 June 29, 2021)
“H.B. 1709, introduced Monday by Rep. Martina A. White, R-Philadelphia, would allow partnerships and S corporations to elect to be taxed at the entity level while providing an offsetting credit to owners and shareholders.”

Arizona House Panel OKs Entity-Level Tax To Skirt SALT Cap (Law360 Feb. 18, 2021)
Ariz. Adopts High-Earner Tax Bypass, SALT Cap Workaround  (Law360 July 12, 2021)
“Arizona will create an alternative business income tax and an entity-level tax, bypassing both a state income tax surcharge on high earners and the federal cap on state and local tax deductions under two bills signed by the governor. H.B. 2838 will allow partnerships and S corporations to elect to pay a 4.5% tax at the entity level and offer a credit to the entity’s partners, members or shareholders for their pro rata share of the tax, according to a bill analysis. The entity-level tax election will be available only if all of an entity’s members, partners or shareholders are Arizona residents. The bill will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and the credit is allowed to be carried forward for up to five consecutive years.”

A Closer Look at Minnesota’s Proposed SALT Cap Workaround (Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence)
Minn. To Offer SALT Cap Workaround, PPP Loan Tax Relief (Law360 July 1, 2021)
“Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed into law H.B. 9. The law creates an entity-level tax for pass-through entities with a refundable credit for entity members, allowing them to bypass the $10,000 state and local tax cap…starting tax year 2021”

Ark. Bill Floats SALT Cap Workaround With Pass-Through Tax (Law360 Jan. 20, 2021)

Some states now offer certain business owners a workaround for cap on state and local tax deduction (CNBC July 22, 2021)

Darren L. Neuschwander, CPA, contributed to this blog post.