Supreme Court Agrees to take South Dakota v

J. Scott Applewhite

In a September 2017 ruling, the South Dakota Supreme Court, citing the 1992 precedent, ruled against the state.

Traditional retail industry groups argue that e-commerce businesses have an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar competitors by being able to avoid collecting sales tax.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., paving the way for a pivotal decision in the years-long debate over how to apply sales taxes to online retail activity.

South Dakota, appealing a lower court decision that favored Wayfair Inc, Overstock.com Inc and Newegg Inc, is asking the justices to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that companies with no physical presence in a state are not required to collect a state sales tax on purchases.

Part of the court's logic was that it would be too hard for mail order companies to compute the widely varying tax rates among, and even within, the 50 states.

In addition to the case before the Supreme Court, NRF is continuing to support the Remote Transactions Parity Act, which would allow states to require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax.

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The Supreme Court agreed Friday to wade into the issue of sales tax collection on internet purchases in a case that could force consumers to pay more for certain purchases and allow states to recoup what they say is billions in lost revenue annually. The state enacted a law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax in 2016, knowing that the move would provoke a legal battle.

Lawyers for the states said they're losing almost $34 billion a year because of the physical presence rule, though estimates from the federal Government Accountability Office said the figure is much smaller.

"It's not the decision we sought, but we're glad the nation's highest court will learn how new state laws are imposing unreasonable tax burdens on out-of-state businesses", DelBianco said. That included Wayfair, which does not have a physical presence in the so-called Mount Rushmore state. That's proof that "the "problem" of uncollected taxes", the retailers involved in the case said in their court brief, "has proven to be largely self-correcting".

NRF is the world's largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.

Arguments are likely to be heard later this spring. "This is a basic question about fairness, which all of our members deserve whether they're selling in stores or online", federation president Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Overstock.com said in a statement Friday that it "looks forward to the opportunity to convince the Supreme Court to confirm its prior rulings protecting the free flow of interstate commerce from overreaching state tax laws".

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