click-through nexus legislation
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New Jersey Issues Ominously Vague Guidance on New Click-Through Nexus Law

The New Jersey Division of Taxation issued a Notice last week that is hardly reassuring to remote sellers.  The Notice basically paraphrases the new click-through statute, noting that the statutory definition of “seller” was amended to create a rebuttable presumption that an out-of-state seller, who makes taxable sales of goods or services, is soliciting business and has nexus in New Jersey if it (1) enters into an agreement with a representative located in New Jersey for compensation in exchange for referring customers via a link on its website and (2) has sales from those referrals to customers in New Jersey in excess of $10,000 for the four prior quarterly periods.

The Notice provides no guidance for sellers on how they can prove that their New Jersey independent contractors or representatives did not engage in any solicitation on their behalf in New Jersey.  The Notice states that the out-of-state seller may provide proof that the representative did not engage in solicitation, but it does not include any details on what type of proof will be acceptable to the Division.

More troubling is that the Notice does not provide specific relief to arrangements where affiliates are paid on a cost-per-click basis (compensation based solely on the number of clicks rather than a commission on sales resulting from clicks).  States such as California, New York and Pennsylvania have said that such arrangements are indicative of advertising rather than solicitation.  The one example given in New Jersey’s Notice describes a commissioned click-through arrangement; the Notice is silent as to cost-per-click advertising.

It is unclear whether New Jersey will issue additional guidance, but given that the Notice does not provide relief for remote sellers with cost-per-click arrangements, they should not simply rely on California’s and New York’s guidance in the interim.  Instead, they should obtain documentation from all their New Jersey independent contractors and representatives that they are not soliciting business in New Jersey on their behalf, even if they are only compensated on a cost-per-click basis.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again: Illinois General Assembly Sends Revised Version of Click-Through Nexus Law to the Governor for Signature

In 2011, Illinois became one of the first states to follow New York’s lead by enacting “click-through nexus” legislation.  The Illinois law created nexus for any out-of-state retailer that contracted with a person in Illinois who displayed a link on his, her or its website that had the ability to connect an Internet user to the remote retailer’s website, when those referrals generated over $10,000 per year in sales.  Pub. Act 96-1544, §§5, 10 (eff. Mar. 10, 2011) (codified at 35 ILCS 105/2(1.1) and 35 ILCS 110/2(1.1) (West 2010).  On October 13, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the click-through nexus law violated the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) by imposing a discriminatory tax on electronic commerce.  Performance Marketing Ass’n v. Hamer, 2013 IL 114496.  The court held that the statute unlawfully discriminated against Internet retailers by imposing a use tax collection obligation based only on Internet referrals but not on print or over-the-air broadcasting referrals.  The court did not reach the question whether the law also violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (although the trial court had also rejected the law on this basis).

In its recently completed Spring 2014 legislative session, the Illinois General Assembly approved an amendment to the click-through law that was designed to correct the deficiencies found by the Illinois Supreme Court.  SB0352 (the Bill).  The Bill expands the definition of a “retailer maintaining a place of business in this State” under the Illinois Use Tax and Service Occupation Tax Acts (Acts) to include retailers who contract with Illinois persons who refer potential customers to the retailer by providing a promotional code or other mechanism that allows the retailer to track purchases referred by the person (referring activities).  The referring activities can include an Internet link, a promotional code distributed through hand-delivered or mailed material or promotional codes distributed by persons through broadcast media.  The Bill goes on to provide that retailers can rebut the presumption of nexus created by the use of promotional codes or other tracking mechanisms by submitting proof that the referring activities are not sufficient to meet the nexus standards of the United States Constitution.  Presumably, under the principles of Scripto and Tyler, if a remote seller can demonstrate that the Illinois referrals are not “significantly associated” with its ability to “establish or maintain” the Illinois market, the presumption will be rebutted.

As amended, the Bill appears to address the ITFA concerns expressed by the Illinois Supreme Court by not singling out internet-type referrals.  It also attempts to resolve any due process constitutional concerns by providing an opportunity for retailers to rebut the presumption of nexus created by their use of referring activities.  The Bill was sent to the Illinois governor for signature on June 27.  The Bill will take immediate effect upon becoming law.

At present, four other states (Georgia, Kansas, Maine and Missouri) have click-through nexus laws that expressly extend the presumption of nexus to non-Internet based referring activities.  [...]

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