On Thursday, June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its previous 1967 and 1992 rulings on two cases, National Bellas Hess vs. Illinois and Quill vs. North Dakota, that had upheld physical presence being required in a state before it could impose sales tax on purchases made by residents in their state. In a 5 – 4 decision in Wayfair vs. South Dakota, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state authority to require online retailers to collect sales taxes without regard to physical presence in the state.
With this decision, states stand to gain much-needed tax revenues for their budget deficits. In addition, there may be even more significant cost consequences for small online retailers that do business in multiple states.
As part of the ruling in the 1992 Quill vs. North Dakota case, Congress was given ultimate power to resolve sales tax issues pertaining to interstate commerce. Discussions surrounding the concept of an “internet sales tax” is not new. Each year, since 2010, legislation has been introduced that proposed a federal tax bill; however, to date, Congress has failed to pass any such legislation that would lend a sense of uniformity to sales tax regulations.
Now that states are being given the authority to pass their own legislation to impose sales tax on purchases from out-of-state retailers regardless of physical presence, and with the inevitable increased complexity that retailers will be forced to comply with, it is possible that Congress will be spurred to provide federal guidance surrounding applicability and compliance as a result of the ruling.