Morrison & Foerster was the first large law firm in the country to build a dedicated State + Local Tax (“SALT”) practice and the first to extend that practice to representing clients in states throughout the country. Indeed, there are only three annual national awards given for excellence in state and local tax practice: one by Tax Management, Inc.; one by the Council on State Taxation; and one by New York University. Two are named after our partners — the first for Frank Latcham and the second for Paul Frankel — and Paul Frankel was the first-ever recipient of the third. Currently, the SALT Group has more than 25 attorneys.
Morrison & Foerster's nationally recognized state and local tax attorneys focus on litigation, planning and consulting for clients on a variety of tax issues, including corporate franchise and income, sales and use, personal income, real and personal property, local business license, gross receipts, transfer, severance, and other areas, including unclaimed property. The firm regularly advises clients on the state and local tax implications of corporate transactions and reorganizations, including multistate analyses of mergers and acquisitions.
We serve a broad range of industries, including automotive, banking, chemical, computer technology, credit card and consumer finance, energy, food, industrial manufacturing, pharmaceutical, retail, and telecommunications.
The SALT Group is on the short list of virtually every large U.S. company with a significant SALT controversy and is regularly consulted for transactional work. The group has successfully litigated across the country, but we have resolved almost all of our matters without the necessity of trial.
Our lawyers approach state and local tax issues from a nationwide perspective, taking into account the similarities and differences of state and local tax systems throughout the United States, and a state-specific perspective, taking into account unique aspects of state and local tax law. We have been involved in many of the most important cases affecting state and local taxation, including a number that have been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
United States Supreme Court Matters
The SALT Group has been actively involved in many of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions shaping the field over the last 30 years, including the recent taxpayer win in MeadWestvaco Corporation v. Illinois Department of Revenue et al. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Illinois’s attempt to tax the $1 billion plus gain realized by Mead Corporation from its sale of the electronic publisher LexisNexis (“Lexis”) on the theory that Lexis served an operational purpose in Mead’s business. The U.S. Supreme Court clarified that the “operational function” concept was not intended to add another basis for apportionment and that it merely recognizes that an asset may be unitary even if a payor and payee are not in a unitary relationship. However, when the asset is another business, as was the case with Lexis, the proper concepts to consider are functional integration, centralized management, and economies of scale.