back to article US Supreme Court blocks internet's escape from state sales taxes

Internet retailers will soon be required to pay state sales tax across the entire United States following a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court. The decision [PDF] will have a huge impact on American ecommerce, with large companies required to calculate, charge and hand over billions of dollars through dozens of different taxes …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Wouldn't it be easier if all the states had the same tax code, even if was for different financial rates?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Er ....

      they wouldn't be states then.

      Each state is free to set it's own internal rates how it likes. If you want to harmonise that across states, you're straying into federal territory.

      If my understanding of the US constitution is correct.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Er ....

        States can set their sales tax rates to whatever they want and some states allow local sales taxes in addition to the state tax. The major complaint is between the states and local sales taxes there are several hundred different rates to charged based on the buyer's location. Note, the buyer's street address might be mislead one into assigning the buyer into the wrong tax jurisdiction as US zip (postal) codes do not always align with the local boundaries.

        Compounding this jurisdictional problem is each state has different rules about what is taxable which is another sources of problems. Again, local sales taxes may not follow the state rules for what is taxable. The dissenting Seniles are correct, no matter how wrong Quill was, the correct place for a major policy shift like this is by Congress even if they are less than stellar examples of humanity.

        Writing a program to correctly calculate the sales tax is fundamentally not difficult in concept but it is the myriad of local inanities that will make code details a nightmare. This software would have to be updated regularly as new state tax regulations come into effect.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Er ....

          Most likely we'll see many online sites other than the biggest send you to another site for final checkout, like they do if you checkout using Paypal. That will let someone else do the calculation and take on the liability if they're wrong.

          I'm a little annoyed that I will no longer be able to buy stuff from eBay retailers, newegg and so forth without sales tax, that probably saved me a few hundred dollars a year. But I suppose if I owned a brick and mortar retailer that had to compete with that I'd pretty pissed about paying sales tax and property tax only to have locals shop online because I couldn't afford to match their pricing so it should help prevent physical stores from disappearing entirely.

          1. ratfox Silver badge
            Megaphone

            Re: Er ....

            The US sales tax system is a real mess. It would be completely fine if states charged different sales tax, but you have tons of local taxes, city taxes, weird taxes that apply to this side of the street and not the other, and even: Tax holidays, which are periods of a few days during which a certain sales tax is reduced or eliminated... But only for certain items.

            For instance, in Connecticut, you don't have to pay the state sales tax if you buy clothes during the third week of August.

            1. Emmeran

              Re: Er ....

              And thus a new industry is born. All of you bit-whackers should be dancing in the streets right now...

              1. TomG

                Re: Er ....

                If you are referring to the sales tax software industry, that industry is alive and well.

              2. Orv Silver badge

                Re: Er ....

                And thus a new industry is born.

                Nah, an old industry is expanded.

                Online retailers that had physical presence (read: warehouses) in multiple states have been dealing with this for years. It's not a new problem. One of the distorting effects of the old rules were that they actually discouraged local investment, since anywhere you decided to build an office you had to charge sales tax. Now the playing field is leveled somewhat.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Er ....

            I've concluded that someone, or several someones, will have developed a nice niche. Word of warning, though. I'd lay good odds that Amazon is already sitting on this and more than willing to rent it to you. For a price.

            1. TomG

              Re: Er ....

              As a former tax auditor, retired 15 years now, I was aware of several companies that made packages that would calculate the correct sales tax based on the location of the buyer.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. tfewster Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Er .... @DougS

            Price isn't why I go to Amazon - It's the convenience of a huge range, good service and a single payment point.

            One Christmas I decided to boycott Amazon and bought everything from my family's Amazon wishlists elsewhere; It was a pain finding the stuff and creating a new account for each site, tracking orders and dealing with multiple delivery companies (e.g. one that only delivered to my home during business hours, and if I wasn't in I had to drive 20 miles to collect it from their depot).

            They may have needed tax breaks to build their business and attract customers, but now I'd be happy to pay the 20% sales tax (VAT) for the convenience.

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Er ....

          I think the answer would be something along the lines of what the EU does. They define the product categories for VAT purposes, and individual member states choose what tax rate they want to apply to each category.

          So, for example chocolate nesquik is a drinking chocolate preparation, and the UK taxes drinking chocolate preparations at 0%. Stawberry nesquik is a powdered drink, and the UK applies 20% tax to powdered drinks. If you are selling those products online in the EU, you know which category they are, and you can look up the tax rate for those categories in each of the countries you sell it in. You don't need to worry that for example Germany considers chocolate nesquik to be a powdered drink.

        3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          Yo! Yank ... Re: Er ....

          Actually its trivial. Really.

          I mean the Feds could set up a web service where you enter your zip code and you can get the array / json object of each tax spelled out for you. The onus would then be on the local government to maintain their taxes else either lose out or payout a refund if they repeal a tax and forget to update it.

          But SCOTUS didn't go that far. They only went to the State level, which is extremely trivial (50+ data point for states and territories) And you could create a service to assist. Sales tax rates are slow to change.

          Again, the truth is that this is rather easy but no one wanted to do it.

          1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

            Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

            Not going to work by zip (postal) code. I know of one local zip code that straddles the county line (30076 for Roswell, GA - Fulton and Cobb Counties). The two counties have different local option sales tax above the state tax. If you went by zip code some Cobb county residents will be taxed at the wrong rate; Fulton is a higher. To add to the local confusion, the Atlanta proper is in two counties: Fulton and DeKalb. I have looked the Atlanta zip codes to see if any straddle the county line but would not be surprised if a couple did.

            The only way you can accurately determine the proper tax jurisdiction is by geolocation using the street address. This assumes the address used is the location of the buyer. Another wrinkle is if one buys something online while away from home, what is the taxing jurisdiction and how is it determined? Depending on how it is done, a VPN service might cause all sorts of fun (honest I was in Finland when placed the order).

            1. Number6

              Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

              The only way you can accurately determine the proper tax jurisdiction is by geolocation using the street address. This assumes the address used is the location of the buyer. Another wrinkle is if one buys something online while away from home, what is the taxing jurisdiction and how is it determined? Depending on how it is done, a VPN service might cause all sorts of fun (honest I was in Finland when placed the order).

              The address to which the product is shipped determines the taxes. If you're a hundred feet the wrong side of a tax boundary and you've got a friendly neighbour the other side, see if they'll accept delivery of your packages.

              This is where the UK VAT (admittedly with a simpler system) and South Dakota have it right - if you're under a financial limit then you don't have to pay but you can't reclaim anything either. Otherwise a retailer is going to require you to have a shipping address in their state so they can ship to that, and then it's your problem moving it from there to your home state.

              Another option would be for the retailer to state at time of sale that the buyer is responsible for paying the sales tax direct to their state and that details of the transaction amount would be forwarded to the state to assist them in recovering it. That way, a small retailer could send a data dump every month or quarter to each state with all the transactions and then the state could ask people for their money. I think the California income tax forms already have a section where you can declare stuff where you should pay tax but haven't.

            2. Emmeran

              Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

              I think the common sense answer is that you tax at the delivery location. Quick (and extremely simple) example is that Grandparents send a gift to little Tina for her birthday, you then tax that transaction like they had purchased it locally and delivered it in person.

              This is how many states deal with the transaction tax on major purchases like vehicles, you have to pay the tax to register it here and you can't drive it if it isn't registered here (with obvious exceptions).

              1. Warm Braw Silver badge

                Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

                I think the common sense answer is that you tax at the delivery location

                Services like this already exist to help you avoid tax by having a delivery location in a tax-free state. The "common sense" approach might just mean they get the money instead of the states hoping to raise extra taxes...

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

                That's why exist "invoice addresses" - usually your "legal" address (in countries like mine it's explicitly bound to you in records, you need to declare one) - and a delivery address, which can be different.

                You should tax not for the delivery location, but for the "invoice" one - it will also avoid some kind of frauds.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

                  Plus what if you're buying for someone else (as noted above, a gift)? The key element here is that, AFAIK, all shopping sites require the use of a Billing Address, and this is the determining point for taxation purposes. Amazon and the like already have to winnow this out because, even before this, they had to apply local taxes for any jurisdiction where they housed a distribution center. Now, smaller businesses may not wish to winnow through everything themselves, but as others have noted, solutions could be obtained elsewhere.

            3. TomG

              Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

              As a consumption tax the tax is due based on where the taxable item is consumed. Therefore if you ordered something from Minnesota while on vacation in Finland and had it shipped to your home in New Mexico, the New Mexico tax would be assessed.

          2. Twilight

            Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

            Basing taxes on zip code does not work. Zip codes do not align to the boundaries necessary to determine local sales tax. My zip code (in most databases) incorrectly places me in an adjacent city that has a higher sales tax. I know of one zip code that is split across 3-4 cities (with at least 1 having a different sales tax). To properly determine locale in the US, you need the full address (not just the zip).

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Yo! Yank ... Er ....

            "I mean the Feds could set up a web service where you enter your zip code and you can get the array / json object of each tax spelled out for you."

            As I understand it, US zip codes are like UK postcodes (but less granular). Created by the post office for their convenience and rarely align with jurisdictional boundaries. I suspect it's the same in most countries.

        4. TechDrone
          Go

          Re: Er ....

          Software for this already exists - I had the joys of implementing Vertex (other apps are available) for a customer a couple of years ago to handle sales taxes for a certain 3-letter ERP suite. Standalone on-prem server or web service, just point an RFC at them, tweak a couple of settings to make it use it and it just worked. The only thing to remember was to apply the data updates every so often and to restart things in the right sequence after the monthly OS patch updates.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Er ....

            Really there are just two things required:

            - Tax encoding

            - Rule on tax address

            I live in an easy-case state where there's only state-level sales taxes.

            Even if going local were challenging, there's no excuse for not charging state taxes.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Er ....

        Well, at least the states could harmonise their own code internally rather than leaving it to be decided at county level. Like that at least there would be 50 different regimes instead of thousands

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Er ....

          Well, at least the states could harmonise their own code internally rather than leaving it to be decided at county level.

          That's not going to happen for the same reason states won't harmonize their taxes -- local control. People like being able to vote on exactly how they'll be taxed.

          Some counties choose to use more property taxes, others more sales taxes, still others user fees and personal property taxes. In some states cities can also charge their own income taxes.

          What fits best tends to depend on where the revenue comes from. Soaking tourists with a high sales tax is a popular option for popular destinations. Counties that border states with no sales tax probably won't want to charge a high one, lest everyone just go across the border to shop.

      3. LDS Silver badge

        "they wouldn't be states then."

        Yes, they refuse to understand a quarter of a millennium passed since 1789 and the world changed a little, meanwhile - people and goods move far faster and easier than then. And organization that can't keep up with the times are doomed to fail, maybe slowly, but they will fail.

        I would suggest US, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of its Constitution, to review it for the XXI century...

        1. TomG

          Re: "they wouldn't be states then."

          Effectively, the Constitution is reviewed every time the Legislature is in sessions. It is called passing a law.

    2. tyrfing

      That would require the states to harmonize their tax codes. This is unlikely for two reasons:

      1. Tax codes are really complicated, and always being added to.

      2. Much of the work a legislator does is fiddle with the tax code. If the legislators in state A just point to state B's tax code and say 'We're doing that", the taxpayers might get the idea that they are not getting full value for their money.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      So which State would be the "guide point" for the tax rate? There are States with no sales tax and there's others that the tax is sky high.

      FTR - I live in a no sales tax State but make up for it in income tax. Anyway you look at it, we all pay dearly in taxes.

      1. TomG

        Generally sales tax is a consumption tax and the tax is based on the location of the buyer. BTW, sales tax is a tax on the consumer, not the seller. The seller has the responsibility of collecting and remitting the tax.

  2. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Death and Taxes

    "Over 10,000 jurisdictions levy sales taxes"

    Good luck to any e-business attempting to tackle all these newly exposed rules.

    1. ratfox Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Death and Taxes

      The American solution is that companies will offer an online service to figure out what is exactly the tax rate for any item sold, depending on the positions of the customer and the store, the type of item, the day of the year, the phase of the moon, etc.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Death and Taxes

        What about the rates for a new item, not yet in anyone's database? Every jurisdiction has its own rules about how you decide what rate applies to what item. Who's gonna take responsibility for applying all those?

        And once you've got this database up and running, and some idiot in Dogtown, Alabama decides to add a $0.10 levy to all drinks sold in bottles larger than 2 pints and containing more than 6.4% sugar content - who is going to update it with that information?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Death and Taxes

          "What about the rates for a new item, not yet in anyone's database?"

          Most locations in retail tend to get a lead time for new items so as to be able to know it's coming. That can provide the taxing firms a lead time as well to assess its taxability.

        2. TomG

          Re: Death and Taxes

          At the risk of getting many downvotes, Windows. Seriously, the company from whom you buy your software will make the necessary corrections/additions. This will be available as a monthly download.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Death and Taxes

          > What about the rates for a new item, not yet in anyone's database?

          The one state I dealt with had a central database that was regularly updated. The example you give is one created by law which generally takes time to go into effect. There is plenty of notice when changes occur. FWIW a few years later I was employed as a state sales tax auditor and so I've seen the issue from both sides. For the most part the State wasn't interested in finding any rule to zap the business with. They were more interested that you were doing your best to apply the law correctly and consistently.

    2. usbac

      Re: Death and Taxes

      We run several e-commerce websites. We already subscribe to a service that provides a web-API to calculate sales tax based on the full address of the customer. They handle the tax holidays, etc. They also deal with the other "ouch" here, remitting to each state (and having to fill out each states confusing sales tax form).

      Remitting is actually the worst part of this mess.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Death and Taxes

        Just curious usbac - In your experience, who carries the can if the web-API service has a false listing somewhere (i.e. a tax has changed and they havent updated their API to the new tax rate). Does the API service cover the cost? Or does the firm making the sale have to make up the difference?

        1. TomG

          Re: Death and Taxes

          The firm making the sale has the responsibility to know the tax law. No excuses.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Death and Taxes

      > "Over 10,000 jurisdictions levy sales taxes"

      >

      > Good luck to any e-business attempting to tackle all these newly exposed rules.

      Several years ago one of my duties was updating the software tax table for a Texas company. There were about 1,0000 jurisdictions IIRC. Total time spent was about two days a quarter. And this had to be done manually, no downloading/uploading of the list. It isn't THAT big of a problem. Add in a few hours a year dealing with people with address problems (postal address for one city but actual location outside the incorporated area) and it was still just a minor issue.

      A quick Google check and I see there are a number of software packages already out there that claim to solve this problem.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Well about time

    It's just catalogue mail order with the Internet web site replacing letter mail order, telegraph, faxed orders or phoned orders. Most of what is bought is physical. The app stores and eBooks are a small proportion of so called "eCommerce"

  4. EveryTime Silver badge

    Hmm, I argue that it's impossible, even in principle, to have a correct calculation of state sales tax due.

    The Court noted a specific case listed in the story -- the tax depends on the purpose that yarn will be used for. The same is true for some food taxes, where there are different rates depending on how it will be consumed. Is it a taxable snack, with a junk food excise tax, or part of a healthy meal? Is it a flavored extract for cooking, or a liquor for cocktails?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Another EU example

      Bicarbonate of soda can either be a food ingredient, or a cleaning product.

      In the UK, food ingredients are 0%, cleaning products are 20%.

      How do you determine which tax rate to charge? It depends on the packaging of the product and the section of the store it is sold in. So if it is sold in the cleaning aisle, it is a cleaning product, if it is sold in the food aisle, it is a food ingredient. Online shops categorise their products in a similar manner, so it will depend which section of the website it is in.

      If you are looking for bicarb to clean your cooker, go to the baking aisle, it will probably be cheaper there.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      the tax depends on the purpose that yarn will be used for

      Seems worrying, when put like that.

      Are we likely at some point to be charged extra tax if buying kleenex, but not for nose-blowing, but, erm other emissions...?

      You want to tax thingy?

    3. dbtx Bronze badge

      food taxes

      don't exist, at least in OH. Some things that used to be food are now taxed because they aren't considered [as healthy as] food anymore, especially carbonated beverages. Some "juice" drinks, fruit punch, etc are taxed too, e.g. Sunny Delight, which doesn't have a lot of juice last time I checked.

      If it's real juice, or milk, or coffee, or a raw ingredient (even sugar!), then it's still tax free. IINM the same distinction is used to show whether a thing can be bought with food stamps or requires Real Money.

    4. Orv Silver badge

      If you have to know intent, ask the consumer. If they lie, it's on them.

      Here in California, for example, software is taxed if it's delivered in physical form, but not taxed if it's downloaded. When I order downloadable software from our supplier, I check a little box indicating that the purchase contains no physical media.

    5. nobody1111

      > Hmm, I argue that it's impossible, even in principle, to have a correct calculation of state sales tax due.

      When you have conflicting interpretations just pick the one with the highest tax. If the customer disagrees they are always free to apply for a refund (and yes, States do have standard procedures and forms to apply for said refunds. Mistakes do happen.) If the customer is really going to leave over having to pay tax on their ball of yarn they probably aren't a customer that you want anyway.

  5. DCFusor Silver badge

    Easy prediction

    States will assume the rosy numbers for new income mentioned above and start spending it in various ways - for example, pretending it will help cover their seriously underfunded pensions even with the most rosy and unrealistic rates of return...and the damage will be enormous when those numbers don't materialize, because guess what? You wanting more of my money doesn't mean I have more to give.

    Poor government likely has a big hand in why the economy stinks...but thinks itself immune to those things if it can get those other people to pay for their malfeasance. We ran out of other people - it's just us po folk, not to hit anyone with a cluebat or anything.

    Looks like everyone, even governments with use of force to collect - is more concerned with fighting over a piece of a shrinking pie than making the pie bigger. I feel lucky to have no personal stake in this anymore (basically I'm retired off grid in farmland) , but it's disgusting to watch all the "IP wars", "Tax wars" lets need to "spend more on the military" wars, the war on freedom/drugs/immigration, and so forth. The people doing this are losing control of the narrative as even the guy with cheetos and beer on the couch in front of the big telly is starting to notice that the lie 'we'll pick those guys pockets to buy your vote and solve your problems (that we created ourselves to so as to use the same story on the other guy). Hence their increasingly frantic agitation.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Easy prediction

      Exactly how "off grid" can you be, and still have internet access?

  6. ThomH Silver badge

    It's still really hard to complain

    It's a bit more likely I'll bother to go somewhere physical, I guess, but the sales taxes here really aren't that much.

    I ordinarily pay sales tax of about 7%. If I drive twenty minutes I can get to a shopping centre in an incentivised tax zone and pay just a bit more than 3%. If I drive for two hours I can get to a shopping centre in one of the states where the sales tax is 0%. And here in the US the petrol is less than 60p a litre*, even after all the hand wringing over recent rises, so it's really a time and boredom calculation.

    At least that leaves lots of spare money to try to deal with the awful healthcare system?

    * okay, it's a shade below $2.90/gallon.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: It's still really hard to complain

      You perhaps forgot wear and tear on the car?

      If it really means something to me, I opt for the GSA rates (55-some cents a mile, covering gas, car maintenance and depreciation, etc.). Take an upcoming vacation of 1500 miles round trip. If rental + gas < $750 (my own car) then I'd rent. There are other variables at play for this particular trip, but you get the point.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It's still really hard to complain

      Legally, in most States, if you cross the border to buy something and bring it back, you're supposed to pay them the difference in tax rates. Some do go a step further and will allow you to write off the taxes paid in another State if they're higher. Most folks ignore those areas of the tax forms for obvious reasons.

      There used to be a tax dodge where you declared yourself a member of clergy and took a vow of poverty. You never had to pay taxes on income but there exceptions and rules to extract some money out of you. I do believe that loop hole has been closed.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: It's still really hard to complain

        Mostly they've cracked down on what constitutes a church for tax purposes, and most of the tax breaks are available to the church itself, not the clergy as individuals.

        There are still a lot of special tax breaks available to clergy, mind you -- I believe they're the only people allowed to opt out of Social Security payroll taxes, although if they do so they aren't eligible for benefits either.

  7. Michael Hoffmann
    Meh

    Amazon

    So, does that mean us anti-podeans get Amazon US back, because they now have to figure out how to collect state sales tax anyway, so might as well add our GST as just another "state tax" for the effective 51st state?

    Yeah, right.......

  8. Criminny Rickets

    How will this affect companies that are headquartered outside of the US? All Amazon orders will now be processed by Amazon Canada. They can then say, "Sorry, we are not an American company so are not obligated to collect State taxes."

    1. TechDrone

      Tariffs

      Hey Canada, stop undercutting our cartels with your reasonably priced stuff. Have a 500% tariff and random border seizures and 10 day safety inspections on every shipment. We don't need your medicines, beer, weed, oil, food, wood, gold, truck parts...

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @Criminny Rickets - Where are they shipping from? Amazon ships from within the US and does charge US sales taxes right now. If shipped from overseas the goods are dutiable (another can of worms) which may be more than the sales tax. Collecting from an overseas company sales taxes might a bit difficult but duties would be easy as they customs paperwork will be required upon entry.

    3. TomG

      This would only work if Amazon moved operations (totally) to Canada. If they still maintained a presence in the US they would still be subject to the tax rules.

  9. The Nazz Silver badge

    Better still ...

    just cut down (circa 90%) on your consumption. You really don't need all the junk you buy.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Better still ...

      What on earth makes you think I'm blowing 90% of my income on stuff I don't need?

      Newsflash, most of us working people actually budget quite carefully. Sure there's some wastage, but it's closer to 9% than 90%, and usually well below even that.

  10. e_is_real_i_isnt

    The Truth

    In many US states the payment of sales tax for mail order or internet purchases is supposed to be paid by the buyer. It is only a pragmatic convenience that stores collect the sales tax at the time of sale, but it is still required for all sales. There is a place on the state income tax form to include such payments as should have been made.

    I feel no sympathy for the likes of states that rely solely on sales tax - it is a regressive tax on the poor to the relative benefit of the wealthy.

    Want to fix something - place the purchase of stocks and bonds under sales tax law.

    1. ST Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The Truth

      > place the purchase of stocks and bonds under sales tax law.

      Goldman Sachs is totally not digging this idea.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am trying to figure out what the tax will be...

    on an eight-ball of blow from Silk Road using Bitcoin.

    (I'll ask John if he knows)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKgf5PaBzyg

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    calculating isn't the issue, handing over the money efficiently is the real pain

    Calculating the tax due for an order is a problem that has been solved already by various SaaS providers. One of which just IPOed about two weeks ago.

    The real pain lies in remitting the tax collected to the relevant authorities. Less than half the states currently support an automated / electronic submission process. The rest, including many towns and and counties that also want their cut still insist on paper forms and cheques. Some once a month others once a quarter.

    I have no problem paying taxes but if you want to benefit from e-commerce then provide a darn e-remittance system for your sales tax filings. This is the real nightmare component of all of this.

    1. PT

      The REAL real pain

      The real pain is that if you're registered for sales tax you have to make a monthly return even if you don't owe any, and if you don't send in a return there's a penalty. So how's that supposed to work when you're registered in all 50 states and 10,000 different cities and counties?

      Furthermore, when I was registered for sales tax they made me post a bond. It wasn't much, it was $500, but it would be a serious problem to have to post one for all 50 states.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: The REAL real pain

        The real pain is that if you're registered for sales tax you have to make a monthly return even if you don't owe any, and if you don't send in a return there's a penalty.

        I ran into that when I got a temporary seller's permit in Illinois. They didn't seem to understand what "temporary" meant. Eventually I solved it by sending them a thick stack of $0 returns and asking them to cancel the business license.

        Furthermore, when I was registered for sales tax they made me post a bond. It wasn't much, it was $500, but it would be a serious problem to have to post one for all 50 states.

        As I recall the new rules only apply to companies with over $100,000 in annual sales. It's not like every mom-and-pop will have to post bond. Also, I think only 15 or so states actually require one. (Not every state charges sales tax, and not every state that does requires a bond, and ones that do require bonds often only require them for a specific set of products, like tobacco.) So it's probably not as dire as all that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not such a great decision for consumers

    This decision is about providing undeserved income to states so that fiscally irresponsible politicians can squander the money. It's similar to legalizing the sale of marijuana which is only happening because states can tax it and generate more revenue. In every single state that has legalized the sale of marijuana the cost of social services and crime has increased dramatically according to independent auditing and even disclosures by Colorado and some other states. In the end the populace pays more and gets less while creating headaches for e-tailers.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Not such a great decision for consumers

      [citation needed]

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'You may not like all the changes but they are a reflection of the fact that there is no online and offline world any more.'

    Go book an appointment with BT Openreach to 'upgrade' your broadband, then come back and say that.

  15. Fatman Silver badge
    FAIL

    Get it right!!!

    <quote>The current situation where billion-dollar companies don't pay state tax is actually damaging to the overall economy and states, the court's majority opinion argued.</quote>

    It is the customer that pays the sales tax, the only obligation of the business is to collect it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Get it right!!!

      But without the obligation of the business to collect it, who's going to be forthcoming enough to pay willingly? Why do you think the US chose an income tax versus a consumption tax?

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Get it right!!!

        I think I was the only person I know who actually paid use tax. Most people just put in 0, unless they had a large purchase the state already knew about (e.g., a car.) Auditing was nonexistent.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Get it right!!!

          Because it would probably cost more than they would take in.

  16. gnarlymarley
    FAIL

    I guess this is the end of my filling out the sales tax on my tax form once a year. Little do these politicians know that a few people would fill that out. If they think they can get tax money out of it, hopefuflly it is not like their 1/4 rate of around 2% like they did with amazon. Otherwise the greedy pig politicians will be losing money.

  17. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    I can hear Bezos laughing from here. It's now that much harder and more expensive for small bootstrapped start-ups to compete.

    Of course the easy workaround is to provide a link to Fedex, UPS, etc. and have the customer arrange their own delivery. That way the sale is local so the seller only has to deal with one tax rate and if the warehouse is in one of the five states without a sales tax it's avoided completely.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Of course the easy workaround is to provide a link to Fedex, UPS, etc. and have the customer arrange their own delivery. That way the sale is local so the seller only has to deal with one tax rate and if the warehouse is in one of the five states without a sales tax it's avoided completely."

      How do you reason this? The buyer is still across the state line from the seller, so the tax rules still come into play, don't they? I mean, weren't they like that in the days of the Sears catalog?

  18. Brian Allan 1

    Should have been done years ago!

    These tax regulations should have been in place years ago to put everyone on the same playing field!

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