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Tax policy is certain to be on the minds of Mr. Trump and the delegates attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. About 50,000 delegates, politicians, lobbyists, vendors, press, and protesters are expected to descend upon Cleveland next week to attend the Convention and its related events. While these attendees are focused on federal tax policy, many attendees should understand the state and local tax impact of coming to Cleveland.
Under the leadership of Governor John Kasich and former Governor Bob Taft, Ohio’s personal income tax rates have decreased 33% during the last decade; income taxes on business income have decreased even more. In spite of these cuts and reforms, Ohio’s overall tax system is complicated and holds many surprises for Convention attendees, especially Ohio’s municipal income tax.
Ohio Income Taxes
Ohio imposes a personal income tax on individuals and requires employers to withhold those taxes from their employees’ wages. Further, the Ohio personal income tax also applies a flat 3% tax to business income generated by pass-through entities, such as S corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. Fortunately, the Ohio Department of Taxation has adopted a tax-friendly environment by stating that it will not pursue tax on individuals and businesses that stay below certain number of days and income levels during the year. The chart below summarizes these thresholds.
Cleveland Income Taxes – Not as Friendly
When enforcing its 2% municipal income tax on individuals and businesses, Cleveland has not adopted the same tax-friendly approach Ohio applies to its personal income tax. (2) Of course, this attitude should come as no surprise—Cleveland is the city that recently and unsuccessfully tried to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that Cleveland should be permitted to impose its income tax on wages earned by Indianapolis Colt Jeff Saturday on a game-day he spent in Indianapolis for rehabilitation from an injury—he did not even set foot in Cleveland.
Although Cleveland provides a 20-Day Safe Harbor from the taxation and withholding of certain compensation paid to nonresidents, the Safe Harbor only applies in very limited situations. The Safe Harbor typically does not apply to non-Ohio employees. Furthermore, the Safe Harbor does not protect businesses from the Cleveland income tax on their net profits.
What Attendees Should Watch Out For – Some Examples
Here are some ways visitors and employers may be surprised by Cleveland’s income taxes:
Non-Ohio employees, including lobbyists and vendor employees, attending Convention-related activities (i.e., whether or not actually attending the Convention) for their employer will likely be subject to Cleveland’s 2% personal income tax on their wages. As a result, employers may be required to register and withhold tax, even though it is merely for a few days of work performed in Cleveland.
Public figures, performers, and entertainers earning income to attend Convention-related activities in Cleveland, including those receiving “1099 compensation,” may also be liable for Cleveland’s 2% municipal income tax.
Of course, many high profile individuals and business people are expected to attend the Convention. For instance, Presidential candidate Donald Trump might work on some of his private business matters between Convention events while in Cleveland—that work could subject his salary, if any, and his companies to Cleveland income taxes. Convention delegates and other Cleveland visitors could be similarly impacted.
Simply put, while an individual or business may not be subject to Ohio’s income tax, it may still be subject to Cleveland’s income tax. While individuals and businesses coming to Cleveland next week will generally benefit from Ohio’s state level tax-friendliness and its recent tax reforms, they will likely be surprised by Cleveland’s income tax that may be due. Cleveland is not alone—most other Ohio cities have resisted efforts to adopt tax friendly policies.
Zaino Hall & Farrin LLC professionals have advised many individuals and businesses regarding state and local tax matters in Ohio and other states. We would be happy to further discuss your particular facts and circumstances and how those facts may impact your Ohio tax or Cleveland tax situation. Feel free to contact Stephen K. Hall or Thomas M. Zaino of our firm at (614) 782-1040.
(1) See Ohio Department of Taxation Information Release PIT 2001-02 for more details on this treatment. The chart assumes no other contact with Ohio by the employee or the employer (i.e., no ownership of Ohio property, etc.).
(2) Our firm made multiple telephone inquiries on this subject to the Cleveland Income Tax Department, but none of those telephone calls were returned. We also examined the CCA website.