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Unclaimed Property: Defending Against Aggressive Enforcement Tactics

Product Code - TMA85
Speaker(s): Ethan Millar, Alston & Bird LLP and Cathleen Bucholtz, True Partners Consulting
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As states struggle to close budget gaps, many have aggressively pursued unclaimed property audits and expanded the types of property subject to escheat laws to include items such as gift cards. Enforcement practices such as the hiring of contingent-fee auditors and the use of certain estimation methodologies have created situations in which a business that is a “holder” of unclaimed property could end up paying a state more than is actually owed.

Adding to the compliance headache is that each state has adopted its own unclaimed property laws, which makes it difficult of multistate companies to comply with the resulting patchwork of non-uniform requirements.

Recent litigation in New Jersey over a significant expansion of the state’s unclaimed property laws highlights the new compliance requirements states are imposing, and the growing willingness of businesses to challenge them.

The presentation will explore the current landscape in unclaimed property reporting and enforcement.

Presentation Objectives

The webinar will:

  • explain what constitutes “unclaimed property”, with a particular focus on “controversial” property types such as gift cards, rebate cards and other promotional incentives
  • cover recent developments and trends with respect to unclaimed property
  • provide an overview how unclaimed property laws evolved to their present state
  • describe the current application of unclaimed property laws across the 50 states
  • highlight some of the multistate issues property holders are likely to face
  • alert attendees to potential structuring options to reduce state unclaimed property liabilities
  • discuss efforts underway to reform unclaimed property laws

The objectives of this webinar include providing participants with a conceptual understanding of:

  • the different types of unclaimed property that holders are generally responsible for identifying and reporting to the states
  • the various contexts in which unclaimed property issues are likely to arise
  • the obligation to comply with state unclaimed property laws
  • some of the various techniques state auditors use to uncover unclaimed property

Upon completion of this program, participants will:

  • understand the various types of property that may be claimed by states as unclaimed property
  • identify the basic legal requirements and audit scenarios arising from unclaimed property laws
  • gain insights regarding current developments and trends in unclaimed property law
  • understand various structuring techniques to reduce unclaimed property liabilities

Ethan Millar, Alston & Bird LLP and Cathleen Bucholtz, True Partners Consulting

Ethan Millar's practice focuses on multistate tax (primarily income/franchise, sales/use and real property transfers taxes, with a particular emphasis on California tax issues) and unclaimed property law, and he represents major companies across the United States in audits, administrative appeals, litigation, and business transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, dispositions, joint ventures and securities offerings. Mr. Millar also specializes in federal and state consumer protection laws applicable to gift cards and promotional/rewards programs. Mr. Millar has served as an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law, where he taught a class on multistate taxation. He currently chairs both the subcommittee on State and Local Tax and the subcommittee on Unclaimed Property of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. Mr. Millar is also a frequent lecturer on tax and unclaimed property topics for professional organizations such as the ABA, COST, IPT and UPPO.

Cathleen Bucholtz is the Regional Managing Director of True Partners Consulting’s Los Angeles, Denver, and Dallas offices and the firm’s National Unclaimed Property Practice Leader. Cathleen has over 19 years of experience in both unclaimed property and sales and use tax consulting, including the development of process improvement techniques and other consulting services, including audit defense, comprehensive diagnostic reviews, statistical sampling, training client personnel, and identification of planning opportunities to help increase clients’ net income. Additionally, she has over 13 years of public accounting experience and prior to joining True Partners Consulting, held the position of Western Region Unclaimed Property Practice Leader for KPMG.