Sullivan Clients Prevail at SJC in Multi-State Software Sales Tax Apportionment Case

Press Release
May 21, 2021

Boston, MA - On May 21, 2021, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts published its opinion in the case of Oracle USA, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue, upholding the Appellate Tax Board's earlier decision for Sullivan clients Oracle USA, Inc. and Microsoft.

At issue in this case, which could have nationwide implications, was whether taxpayers may apportion sales tax on the sales of software purchased for use in multiple states. The case also addressed important issues concerning the scope of the Massachusetts Commissioner of Revenue's authority, including whether he may make substantive tax law or curtail taxpayers' statutory abatement rights via regulations.

Richard Jones, who argued before the Court on February 1, 2021 on behalf of the taxpayers, said "[w]e're thrilled for our clients that the Supreme Judicial Court agreed with our position that Massachusetts taxpayers have a statutory right to apportion sales tax on software purchased for use in multiple states. The decision further clarifies that taxpayers may establish apportionment through the abatement process and invalidates the commissioner's longstanding policy of precluding all refund claims by taxpayers that had initially overpaid tax on 100% of the sale price. This represents a major win for software vendors and particularly their Massachusetts-based customers."

Caroline Kupiec, who was also counsel in this case, noted "the decision is important because it also addresses the extent of the tax commissioner’s authority to determine and implement tax policy through regulations, with the court concluding that the commissioner in this case had overstepped his authority."

Following the Court's decision, software purchasers in Massachusetts should consider whether they also have refund opportunities on past purchases of software.

Video of the 2/1 oral argument can be found here.

View additional media coverage here.

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