The Mississippi Department of Revenue has been very active in informing the public of tax-related developments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. All taxpayers are encouraged to follow them on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as those appear to be their primary and most easily available means of conveying information to the public at this time. While the department has closed its district and Clinton offices to the public and is operating on an essential-staff basis, it is still maintaining its call center (601.923.7700) and taxpayers can utilize the Taxpayer Access Portal (tap.dor.ms.gov), which provides taxpayers the ability to transact most of their business with the department online.
While the department has the authority to extend certain upcoming filing deadlines for state-level taxes it administers, taxpayers should be aware of several upcoming local tax filing deadlines that are not controlled by the department and that likely cannot be extended or waived under the current statutory provisions. Considering that most businesses in Mississippi and across the country have begun operating remotely, these deadlines may present significant compliance and logistical challenges.
The following is a nonexclusive list of several key dates taxpayers should closely monitor because the statutes may not authorize extensions of those deadlines by the governor, the department, or any local taxing authority.
Ad Valorem Tax Renditions – Personal property tax renditions shall be filed with the local county tax assessors on or before April 1. Failure to meet this deadline results in a mandatory 10% penalty per Miss. Code Ann. § 27-35-45.
Free Port Warehouse Exemptions – Miss. Code Ann. § 27-31-55 requires free port warehouses to file inventories and reports of inventory movement not later than March 31 of each year. Numerous opinions of the attorney general have concluded that failure to file these reports timely results in a nondiscretionary loss of the exemption for the year, although it does not appear any of the prior opinions were issued in the context of a comparable emergency. Nonetheless, absent authority to the contrary, this statutory deadline should be treated as fixed and nonwaivable.
Homestead Exemption Applications – Applications for homestead exemptions are due to the local tax assessors on or before April 1 pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 27-33-31. The statute contains an exception wherein the governor can extend this deadline in certain emergency circumstances, specifically when the courthouse or other place that the tax assessor’s office may be located is damaged to such an extent that it is not possible to accept applications for homestead exemption. This exception, however, does not appear to be broad enough to encompass the current crisis.
Ad Valorem Tax Industrial Exemptions – Miss. Code Ann. § 27-31-107 establishes a June 1 deadline for eligible new enterprises to file applications for local ad valorem tax exemptions, and many counties have adopted earlier deadlines and requirements.
It is unclear how long current public health restrictions will be with us, but it is likely that most companies will not be able to resume normal operations this month. Discussions are expected on possible options to grant relief to taxpayers who are impacted by relocations and office closures resulting from the pandemic, but most current governmental efforts are rightfully focused on controlling the pandemic. The Mississippi Legislature has suspended the current session until at least April 1, however, so it is unlikely any statutory relief from these filing deadlines can be considered or enacted before many of these dates have passed.
Jones Walker will continue monitoring these deadlines and issues, and our tax professionals are available to assist clients with any questions they have or complications they may be encountering. While many attorneys are working remotely, we are available to assist with local logistical issues related to these filings if necessary.