Monday, 15 October, 2018

Battle over sales taxes on online purchases heads to Supreme Court

A mail room in an apartment building shows packages about to be delivered A mail room in an apartment building shows packages about to be delivered
Russell Knight | 16 April, 2018, 21:29

State legislators knew the measure was unlawful under the 1992 precedent. North Dakota, which says retailers only have to collect sales tax in states where they have a physical presence.

South Dakota says it is looking to start collecting taxes only for future online sales, but But Wayfair's attorneys argue in court filings that many other states and local governments could demand years of back sales taxes, forcing retailers to go through costly audits of past sales and make back payments that could bankrupt some companies.

Times and technology have changed. Amazon collects sales tax on its own products, but not on other businesses' products that are sold through its website.

Many small retailers depend on online sales. The National Retail Federation, which supports the state, has a membership list that includes Walmart Inc and Target Corp, as well as Amazon. There are billions of dollars of tax revenue at stake here, as well as a huge potential burden on small businesses.

The court is due to hear a case against retailers that have not been collecting sales tax from customers.

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The Trump administration, for its part, has chimed in on the matter, arguing in favor of requiring online retailers to pay sales tax.

"Online retailers are omnipresent today - on consumers" smart phones, laptops, tablets, and computers - in a way that was inconceivable in 1967 or 199", she continued. "The "economic presence' test set forth in this case is a far better yardstick for State authority over absentee retailers and will ensure that large online retailers are playing by the same rules as their brick and mortar counterparts". "For small businesses on tight margins, these costs are going to be fatal in many cases", Andy Pincus, who filed a brief on behalf of eBay and small businesses that use its platform, told the Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has claimed Amazon doesn't collect sales taxes, even though the company does.

Amazon and Walmart, two of the giants of online retailing, collect sales tax on all their sales in the 45 states that have a statewide sales tax.

Based on a prevailing Supreme Court law, retailers can be forced to collect taxes only in states where the company has physical presence.

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