U.S. court backs states over web sales tax

22 June, 2018, 02:30 | Author: Martin Tyler
  • Yuri Gripas  Reuters

Hurst said particularly with so many people owning smartphones today, online sales have accelerated.

The court ruled Thursday that states can force companies operating online to collect taxes, reversing decades-old decisions that had stymied efforts to collect sales taxes on many online transactions.

Today's ruling caused publicly traded e-commerce companies share prices to tumble, with Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba all recording losses in midday trading on their respective USA exchanges.

Big Supreme Court win on internet sales tax - about time!

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote Thursday's majority decision, and five of the nine SCOTUS judges all agreed that Quill was obsolete and that it unfairly disadvantaged brick-and-mortar stores. Kennedy also said the previous ruling effectively created tax shelters for retailers.

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Supreme Court Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, and Gorsuch joined. Dissenting justices were John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

In dissent, Roberts passionately wrote about the plight of the economically disadvantaged shopper whose wages have stagnated and can't bear even a marginal cost increase to their core purchases. "The Court should not act on this important question of current economic policy, exclusively to expiate a mistake it made over 50 years ago", Roberts said. Supreme Court decision expanding the ability of states to pull in tax dollars from online purchases could have a significant impact in Florida. "This Court should not prevent States from collecting lawful taxes through a physical presence rule that can be satisfied only if there is an employee or a building in the State".

The suit was brought before the Supreme Court as "South Dakota v Newegg, Wayfair, and Overstock".

"This is a great day for South Dakota".

In a separate statement, Wayfair said it welcomed the "additional clarity" from the Supreme Court decision, while reiterating its support for "a legislative solution that would establish a level playing field for brick-and-mortar and online retailers".

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Or, it could raise little new money for the state. "It's going to revive Main Street South Dakota and Main Street America". She said small businesses do not have the time, nor resources, to be tax collectors for other states. "If you're buying online from Walmart or Target, you're still paying sales taxes". That is likely to change now.

Pressure has been building both in state legislatures and in Washington DC for over a decade to overturn the original decision and several years ago, the US' biggest online retailer Amazon chose to stop fighting it and agreed to voluntarily collect sales taxes.

The biggest jewelry e-tailer, Blue Nile, now collects sales tax only in Washington, New York, and Virginia. But anti-tax groups and Republicans in Congress have bottled up such proposals.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to side with South Dakota. "They have very different needs and challenges than larger online retailers", the company said. The firm already collects sales tax on the goods it sells directly, but it does not always do so for products sold by independent merchants using its platform.

Brick-and-mortar retailers in Florida and other states have long complained that allowing some online retailers to evade sales taxes creates a competitive advantage for the remote sellers. Meanwhile, Amazon's expansive operations meant it was already charging sales tax nearly everywhere.

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