Reporting in State and Local Tax with Paul Williams

(Part 1)

Hosts & Guests

Paul Williams, Senior Tax Correspondent at Law360

Meredith Smith, State and Local Tax Senior Manager

Judy Vordran, Leader, Educator, Advocate, J.D., CPA


Thank you so much for your time today and for joining us. It's, it's great to have you here. Yes. Thank you very much for having me. I'm glad to be here. So we understand that you transitioned into reporting on state and local tax about five years ago, um, for Law 360, and which is, you know, a big props to you for kind of volunteering, maybe voluntary holding to step into this kind of realm that Judy and I live in on a day to day basis.

Um, when you heard you were assign. Or kind of picking up some state and local tax, What were your initial thoughts? So I had applied at Law 360 for a state and local tax reporter position. So, uh, you know, I knew that I was, you know, gonna be learning a lot more about, uh, the state and local tax world. I didn't understand, you know, or have a clue about.

All the intricacies that, that are involved in it. Um, so I was definitely ready to learn, uh, and I kind of joined at a, at a good time, uh, to really be immersed in the whole world because I was hired in January of 2018, and then of course, Wayfair came down, you know, six months later. And prior to that, you know, I didn't know.

I knew generally, you know, online sales. Not taxable. I had no idea why Quill physical presence, economic nexus, that was all stuff that I just, you know, I didn't know in my prior reporting jobs, which generally focused on like local government budgets and things like that. Uh, so yeah, it was just, I didn't know what to expect and I learned very quickly that there's, there's a lot, uh, you know, here in, in the state and local tax world and it was just, you know, kind of had to hit the ground running and, um, you know, get up to speed as, as quickly as I.

Uh, especially in the sales tax realm with, with Wayfair being, you know, being issued, you know, just six months after. What do you think was the, like, hardest concept to kind of get your head around or to like really kind of like grasp and don't worry, we probably still haven't grasped that concept yet,

Sure. Uh, yeah, I was gonna say a caveat that with, you know, Don't think there's any concept I've, I've fully mastered yet in the last five years. But, uh, definitely anything that that dealt with, um, you know, like multi-state apportionment or, you know, taxation of partnerships and, and things of that realm that's just, you know, I'd read an opinion or a bill, uh, just to see.

What was going on and something that we may report on, and it's just all the intricacies and, you know, all the, the complexities and various factors that, that go into that. Uh, it's really something that was, you know, kind of challenging, especially at first to, uh, to wrap my head around and, you know, even still today, I know obviously the multi-state tax commissions got their partnership project and we've written about that and uh, you know, it's definitely very complex and uh, you know, heady, heady area.

Um, but I think initially that was anytime I. Some type of multi-state portionment or, or partnership, but kinda get palpitations at first and say, Okay, you know, what do I ? You know, what do I need to understand about this now to to write about it? And taxpayers really don't understand it, so they get very agitated.

They always think it's a one size fits all approach. Why can't I do exactly what's in my own state and reapply that across the nation? I mean, They don't get it. I don't think a lot of tax preparers understand it. Cause they work hard on federal. There's a lot to pay attention to there. And then the rip triple down effect.

So it's, it's just sort of a convoluted area. I think it's just, And the thing that's fascinating to me is not every case matters to every client. Right. So Wayfair is probably the largest, more broadest reaching case we've, I besides Quill and some of that historically. Um, but you don't really see these, these different cases, like the Maryland digital advertising tax that's been enacted, right?

That only affects a certain type of taxpayer. So not everything is broadly applicable. So these bits and pieces can have a smaller effect or a larger effect depending on the tax. So it's kind of interesting to decide how to report on it and why it matters. This is why people go, Ugh, I don't wanna know this.

I just wanna apply the same rules of the state of where I'm, you know, headquarter kind of thing. So yeah, if you feel that way, imagine taxpayers still that way. You're like studying and reading it. They don't wanna read it at all. So it's a lot to read. I guess that's where, you know, firms like yourself come in and people like you to put the news out for us so we can, We can't read every little thing either.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • How Paul determines what to report for Law360
  • Zilka v. Tax Review Board City of Philadelphia and why Paul felt this case was worth following

What You Will Discover:

  • [00:44] Paul’s initial thoughts on covering SALT
  • [02:16] The hardest concept to grasp
  • [04:59] How Paul determines what to report on
  • [11:35] Zilka v. City of Philadelphia’s Tax Review Board 


  • “I learned very quickly that there’s a lot here in the state and local tax world, and I had to hit the ground running and get up to speed as quickly as I could.” – Paul Williams [01:59]
  • “At the end of the day, it just comes down to news judgment as well.” – Paul Williams [06:20]
  • “There’s a large volume out there, but we do spend a good amount of time trying to track those to the extent we can, just to see as soon as something moves again. Maybe it’s picked up interest in the legislature.” – Paul Williams [08:41]
  • “It had a lot of elements there that just seem really newsworthy, and certainly we’re dealing with a lot of complex multistate issues that the other taxpayers or tax practitioners are following.” – Paul Williams [14:32]

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