Wayfair has, for now, answered the question (at least, in part) of whether economic activity creates substantial nexus under the Commerce Clause for purposes of sales and use taxes. However, questions remain regarding whether and to what extent business activity tax nexus standards could be impacted. While states had boldly asserted economic nexus in the business activity tax context pre-Wayfair, the response since has been somewhat muted, until recently. Three states, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin, have recently sought to fill in the blanks with regard to business activity tax nexus, with varied and inconsistent results that may raise more questions and concerns than answers.
Baker McKenzie attended the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments yesterday in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Docket No. 17-494. At issue in the case is whether the Court should abrogate the physical presence nexus standard that it first articulated in National Bellas Hess v. Dep’t of Revenue, 386 U.S. 753 (1967), and later affirmed in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992). The Court’s decision could have a profound impact on sales and use tax nexus in the United States by altering the limitations currently imposed on a state’s ability to require out-of-state retailers to collect such tax.
On June 12, 2017, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) reintroduced into Congress H.R. 2887, also known as the “No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017” (the “Legislation”), which codifies the physical presence nexus requirement established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Quill v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992) (“Quill”). The Legislation is interesting for several reasons: (1) it proposes to employ a result that is the exact opposite of the recent trend to overturn Quill; (2) it defines “tax” broadly to include net income and business activity taxes; and (3) it expands the law to require a physical presence for states to regulate a person’s activity in interstate commerce outside of the tax context.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2315, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 (“Mobile Workforce Act” or “Act”), on September 21, 2016. The Senate received the House-approved bill on September 22, 2016, and its ultimate fate remains unclear.