USA top court lets states force online retailers to collect sales tax

22 June, 2018, 02:31 | Author: Sheri Evans
  • Supreme Court rules states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax

"This was the right case and the right time for the Court to act, and we couldn't be more pleased with the outcome".

State Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, who sponsored the legislation, expressed frustration about the delay.

The issue of no e-commerce states sales tax is particularly bad in states that do not have income tax and are not situated in economic hotspots or with great transportation options - like South Dakota. "It's exciting to have it overturned, but it's disappointing to not have a law in place".

Gov. Pete Ricketts was among those opponents, although he had been seeking a compromise at the time the bill failed.

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The suit (South Dakota v. Wayfair) was brought by 40 states that claim the old rule had cost them billions in lost tax revenue.

The bottom line is that today's ruling merely paves the way for states to start to demand tax payments from online retailers.

"There are nuances to every opinion", he said. Dubbed the "Amazon tax", the policy went into effect in July 2017. Gov. Charlie Baker hailed the ruling as "a good day for states, and it's a good day for those in the retail space who have been for many years disadvantaged because of the two-tiered system". This overturns a decision from 1992 that mandated that states could levy taxes on businesses only if they had a brick-and-mortar presence within that state's borders.

The current situation where billion-dollar companies don't pay state tax is actually damaging to the overall economy and states, the court's majority opinion argued. More than 20 states define a seller's physical presence as including any affiliated website. "These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause", he wrote.

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Somewhere along the line, Amazon got so big that it now has what could be called a "physical presence" (in the form of fulfillment centers) in almost every state, and so it chose to start charging sales tax in every state that levied one.

In the wake of the ruling, companies like Amazon will have to keep an eye on how each state handles sales tax legislation and whether they will have to collect the funds on behalf of third-party sellers. That's because they typically have a physical store in whatever state the purchase is being shipped to.

But many smaller online retailers are women, minorities, veterans and people with disabilities who have taken advantage of the protections granted by the Supreme Court and Congress over the years. Amazon actually already charges sales taxes on the goods that it sells directly. Forty-five of the 50 states impose sales taxes. They could lower "the sales tax rate or make more significant investments in infrastructure which creates jobs", he says.

He noted that it could apply not only to behemoths like Amazon and eBay but smaller businesses, like a machining company that sells parts online. North Dakota, ruling that state tax agencies could not force merchants with no physical presence in their states to calculate, collect, and remit sales tax on transactions made to their residents.

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Kevin Lyons, spokesman for Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, said, "We welcome the court's ruling in this case and are now assessing any potential revenue impacts as a result of this decision as well as whether any rule changes or legislation might be required to achieve the benefits of the decision". The law that sparked this challenge passed in South Dakota in 2016.

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