|Eddie Quigg, CPA, JD|
The nationwide legal battle over collecting sales taxes on internet sales moved a step closer to possible U.S. Supreme Court resolution when the Illinois Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court decision that struck down the Illinois law that required online retailers to collect sales tax on in-state internet-based sales generated by their affiliates.
The most well known example of internet-based selling is Amazon Associates. A typical situation is a blog site (the Amazon Associate a/k/a affiliate) that evaluates products and provides a link to Amazon’s site -- if Amazon sells the product the Associate gets an “advertising fee.” Before the recently enacted law was voided, Amazon was required to collect sales tax on sales generated from their Illinois Amazon Associates. No more.
In March, New York’s highest court upheld a similar law, causing Amazon to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, which might now consider the case in order to resolve the conflict between the Illinois and New York decisions. In the meantime, each state is free to pass similar laws and have their courts rule on the issue.
And to further confuse matters, Congress is considering the Marketplace Fairness Act which would require tax collection by all online sellers who meet certain criteria, e.g. more than $1 million in internet sales. The Bill has passed the Senate and is currently stalled in the House.
Missouri Associates/affiliates can breathe a sigh of relief after Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a bill which contained two measures designed to increase sales tax collection by internet retailers. The first is the multi-state Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, under which 24 states have agreed to modify sales tax laws to make it easier to collect sales taxes across the states. The second is the federal Marketplace Fairness Act, discussed above. An effort to override the veto failed to get the necessary number of votes, although the sponsor of the bill vowed to fix the legislation next year.
For now Missouri does not have any laws which authorize the collection of internet sales unless the retailer has traditional nexus to Missouri, which generally means a “brick and mortar” physical presence in the state.
ConclusionWhile both Illinois and Missouri retailers and consumers are currently in a sales-tax-free zone for internet-based transactions, this status might be short-lived as momentum continues to build on both the national and state level to make these transactions subject to sales tax.
Please call or e-mail your Purk & Associates contact if you have any questions, or would like further information on this topic.