As part of the omnibus spending bill, Congress seemed close to passing an internet sales tax that would have disproportionately affected small businesses and consumers. However, the budget didn’t include the digital sales tax, so it is off the table for now.
What’s at stake is the potential of billions in internet sales taxes generated for state and local governments. Congress’s Government Accountability Office estimated $13 billion in 2017 alone.
The House of Representatives sponsor introduced H.R.2193: Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017 almost a year ago. The Senate had a companion bipartisan measure to tax online purchases. So why is it news now?
Congress wanted to exercise its jurisdiction ahead of a related case, Wayfair v. South Dakota, slated for the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 2018 docket, according to a strongly worded The Wall Street Journal editorial “The GOP’s Internet Tax.”
Court watchers predict that the Supreme Court will overturn its 1992 Quill decision that “forbids state and local governments from requiring businesses without a ‘physical nexus’ — that is, property or employees — to collect sales tax,” said the Wall Street Journal. States then could assess digital sales tax.
“But online purchases make up less than 10% of all retail sales, and only a sliver is untaxed. Seventeen of the 18 largest retailers on the web by 2016 had already begun collecting sales taxes on all of their customers’ purchases.”
Consumers already pay sales taxes on their online purchases with retailers that have a location in their state. Also, 20 states have enacted so-called “Kill Quill” laws to get around the federal law; 35 states support South Dakota’s argument.
The Wall Street Journal editorial explained that the U.S. House of Representatives measure “would let some 12,000 jurisdictions conscript out-of-state retailers into collecting sales and use taxes from their customers.” Those against the bill view it as taxation without representation, much like the rationale for the Quill law.
Of course, Quill and the subsequent federal law predate the rise in e-commerce, including platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy that small businesses use.
The U.S. Supreme Court could have a possible decision by the end of June 2018. We’ll keep you posted.