The Compliance Division’s work contributes to the mission of the Department of Taxes by informing and educating taxpayers about complex tax laws, selecting and conducting audits, and collecting unpaid taxes. We have 55 auditors, collectors, technical, and support staff working on behalf of all Vermonters to ensure taxpayers are paying the right amount of tax.
One of our primary goals is to encourage “voluntary compliance” – that is, to enable Vermont taxpayers to accurately determine what taxes they are liable for and pay the correct amount on their own. Another goal is to provide a level playing field for Vermont taxpayers by making sure that everyone is paying their fair share, in accordance with current law.
Tax laws are complex, which can lead to honest mistakes and there are people and businesses who under report taxes or do not file tax returns at all. We work diligently to identify people and businesses who are not reporting and paying the correct amount of tax and help bring them in to compliance. This is achieved through educational outreach, fact sheets, regulations, and audits conducted from our office in Montpelier and field staff located around the state.
We are continually looking for ways to improve service to Vermont taxpayers, and we welcome your feedback. You can contact the Compliance Division by phone at (802) 828-2514 or send an e-mail.
TIPS & NEWS
Items Removed from Inventory and Used | April 28, 2021
Items purchased exempt for resale and later removed from inventory for your own use become subject to use tax. This could include cleaning and disinfectant supplies, paper products, inventory for promotional use, inventory for window displays, or items to be used personally. Regulation §1.9707-2(B) states: Taxpayers who make recurring purchases of tangible personal property or withdraw tangible personal property from inventory for taxable uses upon which no sales tax was paid shall register and report use tax liabilities on returns in accordance with the filing requirements of 32 V.S.A. § 9775.
Household Members Income - Homestead | March 22, 2021
Do you have household members with income? Remember that the first $6,500 of income earned by a full-time student who qualifies as your dependent is not considered to be part of your household income. Learn more about how to determine your household income.
Keeping Proper Records | February 11, 2021
Some recent tax audits have shown insufficient retention of records. 32 V.S.A. §§9702(3) & 9709 require detailed records to be kept and furnished to the Commissioner upon request. This shows the Department that the correct amount of sales tax has been collected and remitted. 32 V.S.A. §3201(4) allows for the request of "any books, papers, records, or memoranda" related to the Department's ability to determine the proper amount of tax due and collected be provided upon request. To ensure the best possible outcome in the event of a tax audit or tax examination, please keep accurate records to demonstrate that the correct amount of tax has been collected and remitted.
Use of Salt and Sand in Snow Plowing Services | January 28, 2021
'Tis the season! For businesses engaged in providing snow plowing services, you must pay sales tax when you purchase the items used to provide your services, namely salt, sand and similar products.
Bag Fee | December 30, 2020
Starting July 1, 2020 single-use plastic carryout bags are no longer allowed in Vermont (10 V.S.A. § 6691). Stores may provide a recyclable paper bag for a fee. Sales tax is not charged on the fee (usually 10 cents) for recyclable paper carryout bags. The past treatment of the packaging remains the same; tax should be paid by the retailer when they purchase the bags. See 32 V.S.A §9741(54) for additional information.
Self-Employed | November 16, 2020
If you’re a self-employed person, the Vermont Department of taxes may ask you to produce records to verify the amount of income and expenses claimed on your income tax return. For this reason, it’s important that you keep good records. Examples of supporting documentation often include:
- 1099 Forms you have received (including 1099-MISC)
- Detailed documentation that supports your business income and expenses, such as: sales slips, invoices, purchase receipts, canceled checks and bank statements
- When claiming business use of your home - Form 8829, and documentation that supports the basis for your calculations
- Summary documents that you used to calculate the income and expenses you reported on your tax return: general ledgers, spreadsheets, income and expense journals, travel log or mileage statement etc. For further tips see IRS Publication 463
Notice to File - Provide Records | November 2, 2020
If you received a Notice from the Vermont Department of Taxes informing you about the need to file your Vermont Personal Income Tax return, please remember to provide a copy of the corresponding Federal Income Tax Return, schedules, W-2s and 1099-Rs associated with this filing.
Business and Hobby Income | October 1, 2020
Did you know? The difference between Business and a Hobby income comes down to how expenses/losses are treated? Business losses are fully deductible, while the expenses related to a Hobby are only deductible up to the amount of any income earned from the Hobby.
Hobby income is usually claimed on, Line 21, “Other Income" of the Federal 1040 form (from 2017 and prior) and Hobby expenses are typically filed on the Federal Schedule A, Itemized deductions (subject to 2% of your adjusted gross income). As of 2018, the IRS no longer allows any deduction of Hobby expenses, and all Hobby income must be claimed (1040 Schedule 1, Line 21).
Based on IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses are the costs of carrying on a trade or business, and they are usually deductible if the business is operated to make a profit.
In determining if you are carrying on an activity for profit, several factors are taken into account. No one factor alone is decisive.
- You carry on the activity in a businesslike manner,
- The time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable,
- You depend on the income for your livelihood,
- Your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the start-up phase of your type of business),
- You change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability,
- You (or your advisors) have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business,
- You were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past,
- The activity makes a profit in some years, and
- You can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.
A presumption of profit is when an activity produces a profit in at least 3 out of 5 tax years, including the current year. However, if the activity consists of breeding, training, showing, or racing horses than the presumption of profit would be at least 2 out of the last 7 tax years, including the current year.
Profit is established when the gross income from the Business activity exceeds the deductions. See IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses for a further guidance on Business expenses.
Untaxed Business Purchases | September 2, 2020
Service oriented businesses, manufacturing or distribution businesses, farm, non-profit or other businesses are required to report and remit sales and use tax if they make purchases which are not taxed properly at the time of sale, are not eligible for exemption, or they make purchases from on-line or out-of-state vendors.
- Businesses who do not have taxable tangible personal property sales are encouraged to register and obtain an account with the Vermont Department of Taxes for the filing their use tax.
- Businesses that have infrequent purchases subject to use tax or are expected to have a small amount of use tax due have the option to report and pay their use tax on their Vermont Business or Corporate Income Tax Return, or may use Form SUT-452.
- Schedule C businesses must report use tax on Form SUT-451, Sales and Use Tax Return, or on Form SU-452, Use Tax Return.
Political Contributions | August 14, 2020
Did you know contributions made to a political candidate, a PAC (political action committee) or a campaign aren’t tax deductible?
If you haven’t already, you may soon be receiving solicitations for donations to your favorite political candidate’s run for office. These contributions are not tax deductible as charitable donations. For details on what types of donations are tax deductible, see IRS Publication 526.
Use Tax Due if VT Vendor did not collect Sales Tax | June 15, 2020
While it is well known that use tax is due on items purchased from out of state and shipped or brought into Vermont, did you know that you also owe "use" tax on the purchase of items from Vermont vendors if that vendor failed to collect the tax from you? This law is covered under T 32 § 9705, Payment and Return by Purchaser:
(a) Where any purchaser has failed to pay a tax imposed by this chapter to the person required to collect the same, then in addition to all other rights, obligations and remedies provided, the tax shall be payable by the purchaser directly to the Commissioner and it shall be the duty of the purchaser to file a return with the Commissioner and to pay the tax to him or her within 20 days of the date the tax was required to be paid.
Report all purchases from VT vendors where no sales tax was collected on your Use Tax line of the sales and use tax filing.
Shipping/Delivery Charges| May 13, 2020
Did you know that shipping/delivery charges billed to your customer which are associated with the delivery of taxable tangible personal property are subject to sales tax? Be sure that your systems are set up to include the shipping charge as part of the taxable sale.
Heath Care Contributions | April 17, 2020
No one wants to pay more than they owe! Remember to contact your payroll company when an employee becomes covered by your health care plan to be sure you are not over paying your Health Care Contribution.
Agricultural Supplies Exemption | March 30, 2020
Agricultural Supplies Exemption (use Form S-3A)
See Reg. 1.9741(3)-1. The agricultural supplies exemption is generally product-based, and the supplies identified in the first clause of the exemption statute – Agriculture feeds, seed, plants, baler twine, silage bags, agricultural wrap, sheets of plastic for bunker covers, liming materials, breeding and other livestock, semen breeding fees, baby chicks, turkey pullets, agriculture chemicals other than pesticides, and bedding; and fertilizers and pesticides for use and consumption directly in the production for sale of tangible personal property on farms, including stock, dairy, poultry, fruit and truck farms, orchards, nurseries, or in greenhouses or other similar structures used primarily for the raising of agricultural or horticultural commodities for sale.
For most of these items, when packaged and typically used in agriculture the seller is not required to obtain an exemption certificate from the purchaser.
- The items listed in Reg. § 1.9741(3)-1 Agricultural Supplies Exemption ARE THE ONLY PRODUCT BASED EXEMPTED ITEMS for agriculture. All other supplies used in agriculture are subject to tax.
- The exemption for fertilizers and pesticides require the purchaser to provide an exemption certificate.
- The sale of bedding material packaged and marketed as bedding for pets, other animals, or other uses is taxable without an exemption certificate.
- The sale of grass seed and wild bird seed are generally taxable. An exemption certificate must be presented if the buyer is claiming an exemption.
- Landscaping plants are taxable.
Agricultural Fuel Exemption | March 18, 2020
Agricultural Fuel Exemption (use Form S-3F)
See Reg. § 1.9741(27)-1. Sales of fuel used directly and exclusively for farming purposes shall be exempt from sales tax. "Fuels" shall include electricity, oil, kerosene, natural gas, propane, wood, coal, and any similar product.
- Generally, if the purchaser is not registered to do business in VT and doesn’t meet the Farm definition, the exemption does not apply and the purchase is taxable. “Farm" means an enterprise using land and improvements for agricultural and horticultural production for the sale of tangible personal property.
- Includes operation of exempt equipment, lighting and heating of farm buildings and farm stands.
- An exemption certificate is required.
- If there are both exempt and nonexempt purposes and the fuel is not separately metered or measured, use any reasonable method to estimate the exempt portion.
Agricultural | February 14, 2020
Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Exemption (use Form S-3A)
See Reg. § 1.9741(25)-1. Sales of agricultural machinery and equipment for use and consumption predominantly (75% or more) in the production for sale of tangible personal property on farms (including stock, dairy, poultry, fruit, and truck farms), orchards, nurseries, or in greenhouses or other similar structures used primarily for the raising of agricultural or horticultural commodities for sale are exempt from the sales and use tax.
Generally, if the purchaser is not registered to do business in VT and doesn’t meet the Farm definition, the exemption does not apply and the purchase is taxable. “Farm" means an enterprise using land and improvements for agricultural and horticultural production for the sale of tangible personal property.
Agriculture does not include lumbering or the growing of trees for logging purposes. The cutting of trees, except for cutting of Christmas trees, is not considered agriculture.
Farms do not include cooperatives and similar organizations that engage in marketing and related activities, commercial operations such as processing food or dairy products, cheese making, logging and lumbering, the operation of a stockyard or slaughter house, enterprises for the breeding or raising of dogs, cats and other pets, and birds, fish or any other animals that are intended for use in sporting or recreational activities such as hunting and fishing.
Materials used to construct barns, sheds, silos and permanent fences are not exempt as they are building materials, not machinery or equipment. Movable equipment is exempt if the item is not incorporated into real property and it is used for farm production.
Machinery and equipment used to maintain or improve real estate, landscaping and snow removal are not exempt.
1099R | February 3, 2020
Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. If you receive a distribution from these types of accounts or similar plans, it is important for you to know if the amounts received should be reported as income on your Federal Income Tax return. If the distribution is reportable income, you also need to consider the income when filing your Vermont State Tax return. Any time a taxable distribution is made, a 1099-R form is issued with data populated in Box 2a or 2b. Please review any 1099-R forms received carefully and refer to information provided by the IRS to determine if you should include this as income on your Federal return. The distribution code plays a large part in how or if it is reported as income. Please be sure to enter the correct distribution code when filing your 1099R. We have had several e-filed 1099R’s filed with distribution code 7 (Normal Distribution) when in fact it was a distribution code 1 (Early Distribution, No Known Exception). Another area where common mistakes are made are with distribution code 3 (Disability Pensions). If you retired on disability, you must report your taxable disability payments as wages on line 1 of Form 1040 until you reach minimum retirement age. Entering the correct distribution code and reporting it correctly can avoid an audit in the future.
Businesses must follow IRS Publication 535 guidelines related to (employee and/or owner) reimbursements such as per diems and allowances, mileage reimbursements, and other types of arrangements for meals, vehicles, etc. In an audit, reimbursements which do not follow an accountable plan, as outlined in IRS publication 535, may be denied as a deduction and/or treated as income for the individuals. Contact a qualified CPA to find out more about accountable plans.
Misreported Deductions | October 15, 2020
The Vermont Department of Tax recently assessed personal income tax due as a result of misreported deductions from income on the Federal 1040.
- Noncash charitable contributions on Schedule A, “Itemized Deductions” were reported but the taxpayer was unable to provide records, documentation, or explanation of what the contributions were.
- Deductions reported on Form 2106 – “Employee Business Expenses”, were also disallowed. Expenses on this form are only allowed in limited circumstances. In this case, deductions were taken for vehicle and travel expenses (which are not allowed for the cost of commuting to work), a home office (not used for the generation of income), and travel and meals expenses – in all circumstances the taxpayer was not able to provide an explanation or records to support the noted deductions.
These adjustments resulted in assessment of over $5,000 in unpaid tax over 2 tax years. As a result, the Vermont Department of Tax has undertaken some systemic data analysis to identify individuals that may be incorrectly using the charitable contributions lines to reduce their taxable income.
- Detailed records must be kept for all charitable contributions. Taxpayers should note that donations of volunteer services and time are not allowed to be deducted from income.
- Effective 2018, the Federal Form 2106 has been discontinued as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Vermont Department of Taxes will be analyzing return information to identify misreporting of these types of expenses as part of our ongoing work.
Further guidance on these deductions can be found at:
Shareholder Loan Transactions | September 15, 2020
The Vermont Department of Tax recently disallowed what an S-Corporation had reported as loans to its shareholders. The substance of the loan transactions did not meet the IRS qualifications for loans. The loans were determined to not be ‘bona fide’ and were reclassified to be considered as distributions of income to the shareholders, creating taxable income. This determination was based on the lack of loan documentation, lack of interest being accrued or paid, and minimal, irregular repayment of principal. The taxpayer did not dispute the Department’s findings, and the audit resulted in nearly $100,000 in tax, interest, and penalty.
Note: Businesses making loans to shareholders need to ensure the loans meet the criteria of the Federal “Bona Fide Indebtedness Factors”. These criteria have been established through case law and include (but are not limited to) written loan documents, an established and appropriate interest rate, maturity date, payment schedule, and legal enforceability.
Further guidance on S-Corporation shareholder loans and federal interest rates can be found at:
- IRS Publication: LB&I Concept Unit Knowledge Base – S Corporations
- IRS List: Index of Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) Rulings
Taxable Fees | July 20, 2020
During a recent audit we found a taxpayer that did not recognize that certain fees are taxable when those fees are required to complete a sale. This law is explained in our sales and use tax regulations:
…“sales price” for purposes of calculating tax means the total amount of consideration, including cash, credit, property, and services for which personal property or services are sold, leased or rented….
Even where stated as a charge separate from the charge for the property or service, the sales price includes charges for labor to create the product sold, charges for services necessary to complete the sale, and delivery charges.
- Fee charged for “damage” or “insurance” when renting a piece of equipment
- Fee charged to pick up (or deliver) or empty rented port-o-lets
- Fee charged to pick up (or deliver) set up rented tents, tables and chairs
- Fee charged to pick up (or deliver) set up rented equipment
- Fee charged to “set-up” a print job prior to printing tangible personal property
- Cleaning charges on rented tangible personal property
- Additional “optional” fee for fitness or pool access when renting a room
- If the amenity fee is itemized, and charged to guest whether or not the guest choose to use the amenity, this fee is subject to rooms tax.
- If the amenity fee is itemized, and charged to guest only when the guest elects to take advantage of the amenity, this fee is subject to sales tax.
Additional fee for fitness or pool access when renting a room (subject to rooms tax when non-itemized, subject to sales tax when itemized)
- Fuel surcharges associated with sales or rentals of tangible personal property or amusement
- Web fees associated with sales of amusement tickets or tangible personal property
This is not an all-inclusive list, so we encourage you to reach out to the tax department for advice on fees you may be charging which are associated with amusement sales or the sale or rental of tangible personal property.
Business Outreach Program
The Vermont Department of Taxes will be launching a Business Outreach Program in February 2021. The program is designed to help newly established businesses better understand tax collection and filing obligations that may apply to their business. A representative from the Department’s Compliance Division will be reaching out to selected businesses that have recently registered with the Department of Taxes to provide the optional educational assistance. If you are interested in being considered for this outreach program, please contact us via email sent to email@example.com or by calling (802) 828-2514.
Business Income Tax (BIT) Non-Filers and the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP)
The Department has had success using data matching to identify businesses and individuals who are conducting business in Vermont, but not filing Business Income Tax returns. The identified non-filers are contacted to confirm business activity. The Department uses available information from state, federal, and public resources to estimate and assess tax liability. In recent months, several cases have been closed resulting in the filing of many returns and payment of significant delinquent taxes. The Department intends to continue to use this information to ensure everyone with an obligation to file and pay income taxes is doing so, and to provide a level playing field for those conducting business in Vermont.
In some cases, people have acknowledged that they have fallen behind, and are working cooperatively with our audit staff. If this is the case for you or one of your clients, know that you can reach out through the Department’s Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) to get into compliance. To be considered for the Voluntary Disclosure Program, the disclosure applicant must not have been contacted by the Department prior to initiating the disclosure process. Coming forward before the Department contacts you could have financial benefits in the form of penalty relief. Find more information about the Voluntary Disclosure Program.
Ideally a Voluntary Disclosure request contains the following information:
- The type of entity (corporation, partnership, etc.)
- A brief description of the company's business including its specific activities in the state Vermont
- Date the company began business and date the company began business activities in Vermont
- Disclosure of the tax type (Sales and Use Tax, Meals and Rooms Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Withholding Tax, etc.) for which an Agreement is requested
- Specifying tax types the entity is already registered for in Vermont
- Whether the company has been contacted by the Vermont Department of Taxes
- Whether the company has collected, but not remitted, Vermont Tax
- An estimate of the amount of taxes due
- Any additional information or extenuating circumstances to support the request
The Compliance Division has recently invested resources in reviewing capital gains on real estate transactions. We are using information from multiple state and federal data sources to ensure that sales are reported correctly and that the proper amount of tax is paid to Vermont.
Taxpayers and preparers should note that almost all real estate sales, including many primary residence sales, are subject to reporting for capital gain. Most primary residence sales will not have a capital gain tax liability due to IRS exclusion amounts. However, if you receive a 1099-S for any sale, you must account for the transaction on your income tax return and schedules. Primary home sales will generally be reported directly on federal Schedule D – “Capital Gains and Losses,” while investment property sales should flow through federal Form 4797 – “Sale of Business Property.” Review the resources listed below or consult with your tax professional for further information.
- Publication 523 – Selling Your Home
- Form 1099-S – Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions
- Schedule D – Capital Gains and Losses
- Form 4797 – Sales of Business Property
Properly completing all required forms and schedules will dramatically reduce the possibility of the Department contacting you to confirm or clarify transactions. Taxpayers should keep records about all their properties (including primary home) for 3 years after the sale of that property.
Businesses should be aware that the Vermont Department of Tax receives Federal 1099K merchant information. This information allows the department to run discovery programs to ensure that businesses are remitting the proper amount of tax. The discovery program compares your credit card sales (adjusting for taxes and tips) to your filed meals and rooms tax (MRT) and/or sales tax (SUT) returns. Businesses who fail to report their sales, based on our analysis of this data, may be flagged for audit. To avoid this, always ensure that you have reported all of your sales and that you have remitted all of the taxes you have collected.
Corporate/Business Income Non-Filers
In general, any business that operates or has any presence in Vermont is required to file an Income Tax return with the state, or report on 1040 Schedule C if it is a sole proprietor or single member LLC. Our Office Audit and Discovery teams have been working on ways to identify companies that are operating in Vermont, but not filing the required returns for Corporate or Business Income tax.
We have identified dozens of businesses that fall into this category. Recently, we have been using various information sources that indicate companies that have employees working in Vermont, or own or rent property in Vermont, to conduct business. Going forward, we have more data stores and avenues to uncover other companies similarly operating, but without filing or paying Income Tax.
We want to share this information for two reasons. First, to let businesses and preparers know that if they are conducting business in Vermont, to be aware that there is generally an entity-level Income Tax filing requirement, and that the Department is actively working to find companies that are not meeting this responsibility. Second, and equally importantly, we want to assure all taxpayers – Vermont businesses and beyond – who voluntarily report and pay the correct tax, that we are diligently working to ensure your colleagues and competitors in the business community are doing the same. We want all businesses to be on a level playing field and be paying the correct amount of tax.
Personal Income Tax Discoveries
The Vermont Department of Tax regularly conducts the following four Personal Income Tax (PIT) discoveries:
- CP2000 Discovery: A notice containing preliminary findings is mailed to a taxpayer based on information the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has identified as being under reported, which information appears to not be considered on the Vermont tax return filed.
- IRMF Non-Filer Discovery: A notice is mailed to the taxpayer when the Department has information that indicates a strong possibility a Vermont Personal Income Tax return should have been filed. The estimated tax liability on the preliminary notice is based on data received from the IRS and other information available to the Department. The preliminary notice indicates the taxpayer needs to file a return or let us know why they believe they do not have a filing requirement in Vermont.
- IMF Non-Filer Discovery: This discovery covers situations where the taxpayer has filed a Federal return but did not file a Vermont Income Tax. The estimated tax liability on the preliminary notice is based on data received from the IRS and other information available to the Department. The preliminary notice indicates the taxpayer needs to file a return or let us know why they believe they do not have a filing requirement in Vermont.
- Discrepancy Discovery: This discovery covers situations where the taxpayer has filed a Federal return and a Vermont Return, and it’s believed there is under reported financial income. The estimated tax liability on the preliminary notice is based on data received from the IRS and other information available to the Department. The preliminary notice indicates the taxpayer needs to file an amended return or let us know why they believe they do not have to amend.
Over the course of 2021, we plan to release mailings involving these programs.