On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at 10:00 am (EST) the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., a state tax case poised to reconsider the dormant Commerce Clause physical presence standard upheld by the Court on stare decisis grounds in the historic mail-order case Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (U.S. 1992), which was litigated by McDermott Will & Emery. The Court is expected to consider whether a 2016 South Dakota law imposing sales and use tax collection obligations on online retailers–and other sellers–with no physical presence in the state is permissible given, among other things, the advances in technology and e-commerce since Quill was decided.

For those that would like to attend the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. oral argument as a member of the public (as opposed to as a member of the US Supreme Court Bar), the Supreme Court Police give out 100–150 numbered tickets between 7:00 am–7:30 am. The doors to the building open at 8:00 am.  Once inside, the line re-forms in the hallway by the Gallery steps and at 9:00 am, the public is allowed upstairs to the Gallery.  The argument will begin at 10:00 am.  Given the popularity of this case, it is anticipated that only around 50 seats will be available to the general public for this argument—so plan to arrive early to ensure you have the best chance to make it in!

After the oral argument concludes, we invite you to join COST, Bloomberg Tax, McDermott Will & Emery, and lawyers involved in many respects of the litigation for a moderated roundtable discussion at the DC office of McDermott Will & Emery, which is just minutes away from the Supreme Court. The roundtable discussion will begin at 12:00 pm (EST) and explore the issues before the Court and opinions regarding the many possible outcomes from the case.

We expect a full house and space will be limited, so please register your interest now so that we can plan to accommodate as many as possible. This case promises to revolutionize the world of SALT, no matter the outcome.

On January 21, Governor Cuomo delivered his State of the State address, along with proposing the new budget. The budget has a number of new tax proposals. One of those proposals would have a significant impact on e-commerce companies. Part X of the budget proposal amends the sales tax statutes to require marketplace providers to collect and remit sales tax on sales to New York customers. A marketplace provider is a person who, pursuant to an agreement with a seller, “facilitates a sale, occupancy, or admission” by the seller. A person can be a marketplace provider if they facilitate the sale, or are an affiliate of a person facilitating the sale. For purposes of this definition, affiliate companies are companies that have common ownership of 5 percent.

“Facilitates a sale, occupancy, or admission” means:

(1) such person, or an affiliated person, collects the receipts, rent or amusement charge paid by a customer, occupant or patron to a marketplace seller; and

(2) such person performs either of the following activities:

(A) provides the forum in which, or by means of which, the sale takes place or the offer of occupancy or admission is accepted, including a shop, store or booth, or an internet website, catalog or a similar forum; or

(B) arranges for the exchange of information or messages between the customer, occupant or patron, as the case may be, and the marketplace seller.

A marketplace provider meeting these requirements would be required to collect as if the marketplace provider were the vendor.

Under current law, a seller is required to collect and remit tax on sales made to New York customers. Under the budget proposal, a seller would no longer be required to collect if the marketplace provider provides a collection certificate to the seller. (The Division of Taxation is required to develop procedures to administer the certificate). If a marketplace provider does not provide a collection certificate, but does use language approved by the Division of Taxation and Finance in a publicly-available agreement, that will have the same effect as the provision of a collection certificate.

The imposition under the proposal is directly on the marketplace provider. There does not appear to currently be any provision that would allow a seller in a marketplace to collect instead of the marketplace provider, if the seller so desired.

Marketplace providers are relieved of liability if the information provided to them by the seller is incorrect. However, there is no provision in the bill requiring the marketplace sellers to provide any information to the marketplace provider.

The law does not change existing nexus or ‘doing business’ requirements. It appears that a marketplace provider would be required to collect only if the marketplace provider has nexus with New York under the Commerce Clause.

This proposal would have a significant effect on e-commerce companies, and could have an impact reminiscent of the impact of the click-through statutes. Companies that sell through a marketplace may not be concerned about this specific act if they already collect in New York. However, if this proposal is successful, then it could be copied by many other states the same way that click-through statutes were copied. As with click-through, it would not be surprising if the constitutionality of this provision were challenged.