U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Allowing States to Collect Taxes On Sales Made On the Internet

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider freeing state and local governments to collect billions of dollars in sales taxes from online retailers, agreeing to revisit a 26-year-old ruling that has made much of the internet a tax-free zone.

Heeding calls from traditional retailers and dozens of states, the justices said they’ll hear South Dakota’s contention that the 1992 ruling is obsolete in the e-commerce era and should be overturned.

State and local governments could have collected up to $13 billion more in 2017 if they’d been allowed to require sales tax payments from online merchants and other remote sellers, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan audit and research agency. Other estimates are even higher. All but five states impose sales taxes.

Online retailers Wayfair Inc., Overstock.com Inc. and Newegg Inc. are opposing South Dakota in the court fight. Each collects sales taxes from customers in only some states.

The case will also affect Amazon.com Inc., though the biggest online retailer isn’t directly involved. When selling its own inventory, Amazon charges sales tax in every state that imposes one, but about half of its sales involve goods owned by third-party merchants. For those items, the company says it’s up to the sellers to collect any taxes, and many don’t.

The court probably will hear arguments in April with a ruling by the end of its nine-month term in late June.

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SOURCE: Greg Stohr
Bloomberg