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With Quill Protection Gone, What Should Online Sellers Do?

Online Sales Tax

Online Sales Tax Washington StateEven if you’re a small online seller with a presence in a single state, should you immediately start collecting sales tax from your out-of-state buyers? That’s a question on many minds after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v Wayfair (see EcommerceBytes’ article, “Supreme Court Throws Out Longstanding Sales Tax Rule-Book,” published on Saturday).

We asked some vendors of sales-tax services for their advice.

Mark Friedlich, Esq., CPA and Senior Director of Tax & Accounting North America for Wolters Kluwer (publisher of CCH SureTax) said under the 1992 Quill ruling, the interpretation of the Commerce Clause was that the “substantial nexus” required to justify imposition of a sales tax was “physical presence” (that is, property or employees) of the company in the state. The decision in Thursday’s South Dakota vs Wayfair ruling uses economic nexus with minimum thresholds as the standard for substantial nexus.

“To prepare, online sellers should perform a nexus “profile” immediately” by reviewing in which states they have online sales. “Businesses should leverage a set of tools that combines the deep domain expertise of the nexus footprint in all 10,000 taxing jurisdictions across the US, with the technology to quickly and easily keep track of, calculate, collect and remit sales tax to the taxing authorities.”

Likewise, Charles Maniace, Director of Regulatory Analysis for Sovos, said sellers should start preparing. When we asked him if sellers must immediately begin collecting sales tax for all states and all localities, he said no, “but it does mean that sellers need to start preparing for a sea change in their compliance obligations. In South Dakota, based on how the law was written the fact that the case was technically remanded to state court likely means that the new standard is not immediately enforceable.”

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He explained, “There are a small handful of states that may, in pretty short order, announce that they are enforcing existing economic nexus standards which, under the law, took effect immediately upon the Supreme Court Decision (North Dakota and Vermont).

“Other states may, based on how their laws are currently structured, may be able to enact economic nexus standards through DOR regulations, which cannot be done immediately but can be done fairly quickly. Other states will have to enact statutes that incorporate economic nexus standards, and statutes take time.”

Maniace noted that while the opinion addresses South Dakota law, the case has enormous national ramifications both short term and long term. “One more small bit needs to be shaken out, he said, “and that is whether the fact that the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the South Dakota lower courts means that a final disposition needs to happen before enforcement can kick off. In other words, the plaintiffs have one more opportunity to make any other Commerce Clause challenges to the law (aside from physical presence) and until we know what they opt to do, enforcement must wait. I suspect that we will be hearing from SD shortly on this point.”

We asked David Campbell, CEO of TaxCloud the same questions. Must sellers immediately begin collecting sales tax for all states and all localities? “While that is one possible response, we don’t believe the situation is quite so absolute,” he said.

“We are expecting the various States to start issuing statements and guidance for their in-state sellers, as well as to serve as notice to out-of-state sellers, regarding that states understanding of the ruling, relative to the states’ current statutes.

“We believe many states may already have statutes in place anticipating yesterday’s ruling, while likely many more states do not have legislation in place to achieve the simplifications recognized by the Supreme Court as material considerations, including 1) a de minimus threshold for interstate commerce, and 2) ensuring retailers have access to free compliance software and services

“So, we believe the answer to your question is no, not immediately.”

We asked Campbell who would have to collect taxes for transactions with South Dakota residents and when.

“For this answer, it may be easier to answer the second part first: beginning when? Our reading of the ruling is that the case now returns to the South Dakota Supreme Court to evaluate the case on its merits, unfettered by the now antiquated physical nexus standard defined by Bellas Hess (1967) and upheld in Quill (1992). Until that case is resolved, South Dakota has already enjoined itself from enforcing that law on any out-of-state retailers.

“As to who will have to collect, once that case is decided, it seems their economic nexus definition, or what we are now referring to as a de minimus threshold for interstate commerce, which is any retailer with more than 200 transactions or $100,000 of sales into South Dakota over the trailing 12 months.”

TaxCloud’s Campbell advised sellers, “Take a deep breath. Your world is not ending, and no states want to put you out of business. States do want retailers to collect the sales tax those states’ citizens rely on to fund local priorities.”

Campbell found a silver lining for online sellers in the Supreme Court decision. “Eliminating the physical nexus standard is good news for all retailers because it negates or the states’ need to enact confusing and controversial laws (such as Massachusetts’ cookie nexus law) in efforts to bypass Bellas Hess and Quill and get remote retailers to collect sales tax legally due.”

The best place for concerned sellers to nail down their obligations would be their accountants and perhaps a tax attorney specializing in these matters. And if you’re shopping for sales-tax software, note there are additional services including Avalara and TaxJar.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

7 thoughts on “With Quill Protection Gone, What Should Online Sellers Do?”

  1. Until the states figure out what they are going to do and start enforcing it. Its going to be business as usual. Ain’t collecting something thats at this time UNLAWFUL. I’m not sure why everyone is in such a big hurry to pay any state anything. Slow down, relax, get a life.

  2. As with many laws in the last few months. The “restrictions and requirements” and created by Big Monopolistic companies, especially designed to fit their needs and to block any possible opportunities for smaller companies. These laws are not affecting Amazon or Walmart, they will help them crush small sellers. I always try to tell people what is happening, most of the time they ignore me. Lets see what will happen with very few small sellers are left. Keep texting and chatting

  3. “To prepare, online sellers should perform a nexus “profile” immediately”…. leverage a set of tools….. deep domain expertise….. in all 10,000 taxing jurisdictions across …..to the taxing authorities.”

    Sure, right, I am starting right now, as you say, a great advice

  4. Since 85% of all possible online sales taxes are already being collected, and considering that the remaining outstanding sales taxes are literally chump change to the states, the big question to my admittedly suspicious mind is why. Having effectively removed physical presence in a state as a requirement for a state to tax, what are the possible long term ramifications? Well, follow the money- the big money actually- which potentially is taxes on income. Hummm… Got a pension from a high tax state and move to one with no income tax to retire more comfortably, will that high tax state eventually be able to reach out and touch you? Why not? A tax is a tax….

  5. Ill continue to collect tax for my state snd any tax bill i get ill forward yo my state treasury and let them know another state is trying to steal their revenue.

    States collecting tax from other states is stupid and the supreme court can go to hell

  6. When will brick and mortar stores be liable when an out of state rident buts from them? They need to send thise taxes to where the petson lives.

  7. Most of the additional tax collected will go to where most tax collected from the American public already goes- to big companies and wealthy people. to corporate welfare. to tax cuts for big business, and to building up a corrupt infrastructure of government employees who work for Wall Street and the wealthy.

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