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Wayfair

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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.

Six online retailers recently sued the Massachusetts Department of Revenue over the pre-Wayfair enforcement of regulation 830 CMR 64H.1.7 (“Remote Sales Tax Regulation”). The complaint argues that, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., No. 17-494 (U.S. Jun. 21, 2018), the Remote Sales Tax Regulation violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Internet Tax Freedom Act. On Due Process, the six online retailers argue the Remote Sales Tax Regulation places an undue burden on, and discriminates against, interstate commerce. The online retailers also argue that the Remote Sales Tax Regulation violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act’s prohibition of discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.

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.

Recently, the South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit Court granted Wayfair’s motion for summary judgment, finding South Dakota’s remote sales tax statute, S.B. 106, unconstitutional under Quill v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992). South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., S.D. Cir. Ct., No. 32 Civ. 16-000092 (Mar. 6, 2017) (“Wayfair”).  The case appears to be headed directly to the South Dakota Supreme Court, assuming the state appeals.  As a brief recap, S.B. 106 requires retailers to collect and remit sales tax if they have annual sales exceeding $100,000 or 200 separate transactions in the state, regardless of physical presence. See our prior coverage The Possible Upshot of South Dakota’s Master Plan to “Kill Quill”.  The statute was purposefully designed to directly challenge the Quill physical presence standard.  As of our last report on Wayfair, the defendants had the case removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.  However, in January, the federal district court granted the state’s motion for remand to the South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit Court after determining that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.  This was a victory for the state as S.B. 106 specifically provides for fast-track litigation through the state court system.