The 2016 Benjamin F. Miller Award Acceptance Speech

Publication year2017
CitationVol. 26 No. 1
AuthorBy Charles Moll
The 2016 Benjamin F. Miller Award Acceptance Speech

By Charles Moll

Thank you Marcy for those kind words and thank you all for coming. This is without question the premier tax event in the country. As this year's recipient of the Benjamin F. Miller Award, I was asked to make a few remarks. Of course, I am merely the warm up band to the true rock star of this lunch, Selvi Stanislaus, Executive Director of the Franchise Tax Board.

I wanted advice for conducting this acceptance speech, and I reached out to Bobbie (well, Mr. Dylan) but I couldn't track him down. So I thought back to when I was informed about this award. I remember thinking if you just hang around long enough and they run out of others to give the award to, then maybe it's your turn.

Seriously I thank the State Bar for this award. I am proud to receive it, and it means a lot to me. I am humbled to be on same list with other state tax movers and shakers - Marcy and others, many of whom I have worked with, some of whom are here today.

This is a SALT Award for Tax. For the Federal lawyers in the room, what is SALT? It stands for State and Local Tax and covers a plethora of taxes - income, sales/use, property, local gross receipts, utility user, hotel, parking, etc., etc. If there is an activity there is a tax, and the cases we have worked on encompass a wide variety of issues, including: the first law of thermodynamics, the temperature of movie popcorn, the market value of rocket launch facilities, etc. Now, if you have political aspirations, this is the field to be in. Abe Lincoln handled property taxes for railroads. Clearly, present candidates aside, SALT is an obvious career path to the presidency.

SALT is quite different from Federal tax, which has one code vs. hundreds for SALT. And while there is lots of authority at the Federal level - code, regulations, rulings, bluebooks, treatises, etc. - for SALT there often is very little, if any, such authority. We rely upon the USSC as supreme arbiter. Sort of like a school teacher and the states are like kids - when the teacher's back is turned, the kids make mischief.

For example, the Supreme Court has held, twice, that one must have substantial presence in a state for it to impose a sales/use tax. But New York has construed that to mean "the slightest presence."

Another difference is that at the Federal level, there is one tax agency - the IRS. In California, we have many. At the state level, we have two very good ones, represented here, by Jozel...

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