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Supreme Court rules in internet sales tax case

22 June 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that declares states can collect sales tax for online purchases could potentially boost Washington state's bottom line by hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a ruling that could benefit Nebraska and Iowa tax coffers, the U.S. Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax. Five states don't charge sales tax.

According to the General Accountability Office, prohibitions against collecting sales taxes from online retailers cost states as much as $13.4 billion previous year. Many states are bound to take advantage of the green light the Supreme Court has given them, which means consumers will eventually end up having to pay sales tax on more of the things they buy online. "It does seem like it should be more fair if you paid sales tax no matter where you were purchasing".

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IN lawmakers anticipated the ruling in 2017 when they passed a law that imposed sales tax on companies that did at least $100,000 worth of business or more than 200 separate transactions in the state in a year. Thanks to Amazon's nationwide network of warehouses, the company already collects sales tax for the majority of states. In 2014, Amazon, the largest online retailer, began collecting the tax in Florida after it opened a series of "fulfillment centers" in the state.

Shares of eBay Inc and Etsy Inc, which both provide platforms for small retailers to sell their wares, were off 3.2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. The state argued it was losing between $48 million and $58 million per year in uncollected sales tax, and the issue ended up in the Supreme Court.

The ruling is sure to elate the state's small retailers. That software, too, can be an added cost. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The lineup of justices on each side of the case was unusual, with Roberts joining three more liberal justices and Ginsburg joining her more conservative colleagues. "The Internet's prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy", he wrote. Lawmakers in the state, which has no income tax, passed a law created to directly challenge the physical presence rule. Now, some companies had, like Amazon had been remitting the sales tax to us already on internet sales. Soon after the law went into effect, South Dakota sued online retailers Wayfair, Newegg and Overstock for allegedly failing to comply. This ruling could give it a boost as competing online stores are forced to raise prices at checkout. Alaska, Del., Mont., N.H. and Ore...won't be affected by the Supreme Court's ruling.

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On June 4, the last day of the special second session, Louisiana legislators rushed through a bill that used the same wording as a South Dakota law that was the subject to the constitutional challenge in the high court. On Twitter, President Donald Trump called the decision a "Big victory for fairness and for our country".

The court decision was praised by Florida business groups. First, the Act applies a safe harbor to those who transact only limited business in South Dakota.

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Supreme Court rules in internet sales tax case