US Supreme Court to Hear Case on Ecommerce Taxation

The top of U.S. Supreme Court building is lit at dusk in Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear Texas' appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered the state's Republican leaders to redraw congressional and state House voting maps.

The 2016 South Dakota law called for out-of-state merchants to pay a 4.5% tax on sales of over $100,000 worth of merchandise within a particular state.

The Supreme Court will decide whether to expand the power of the states to collect sales tax from online sales, which could precipitate a vast increase in internet sales tax.

"After six years in litigation, we welcome swift action from the highest court in the land", said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Democrat and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is a plaintiff in the case. North Dakota decision is outdated.

States and counties told the court they lose between $13 billion and $34 billion each year because they can not collect sales taxes on all online purchases.

As for the National Retail Federation, it wants federal legislation to resolve the issue.

South Dakota is losing millions of dollars a year in uncollected sales taxes because of growing Internet sales.

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Steve DelBianco, president of e-commerce trade association NetChoice, expressed disappointment about the court taking up the case. The state Supreme Court said it had no choice except to follow the Supreme Court precedent, noting that only the Justices themselves can overrule themselves. The sole issue they agreed to hear reads: "Should this Court abrogate Quill's sales-tax-only physical presence requirement?" Two years ago, however, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said in an somewhat-related case that the Court should find "an appropriate case" to reconsider the Quill decision and its constitutional reasoning.

"When the Court decided Quill, mailorder sales in the United States totaled $180 billion", Kennedy wrote.

The case is expected to draw a long list of supporters and opponents of South Dakota's challenge.

Part of the law created to assure a court test of the state's new tax gave the state permission to sue out-of-state retailers who failed to collect and pay. "Even if the court rules in favor of a modern sales tax policy, legislation will still be needed to spell out how that would work".

A barrage of court rulings previous year - including the two redistricting rulings handed down last August - have forced Texas leaders to confront whether they strayed too far in enacting voting laws found to have disproportionately burdened people of color. Online marketplace eBay Inc, which exclusively sells products via third-party vendors, allows for sales tax to be calculated based on the address of the purchaser, for example.

Heitkamp said she looks forward to attending the arguments, which will likely take place in April.

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