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Washington has enacted legislation that creates marketplace nexus and reporting requirements provisions and expands the state’s economic nexus provision. Effective January 1, 2018, remote sellers, referrers and marketplace facilitators must elect to either collect and remit Washington sales or use tax on taxable sales into Washington or comply with notice and reporting requirements. The requirements apply to remote sellers or marketplace facilitators with gross receipts from retail sales sourced to Washington in the current or preceding calendar year of at least $10,000. A referrer is subject to the requirements if during the current or immediately preceding calendar year, gross business income received from referral services apportioned to Washington, whether or not they are subject to sales and use tax, and from retail sales sourced to Washington, if any, is at least $267,000. This is in addition to its Click Through and Affiliate nexus provisions which were passed in 2015. Until January 1, 2020, the requirements do not apply with respect to the retail sale of digital products and digital codes, other than specified digital products and digital games and digital codes used to redeem specified digital products and digital games, by a marketplace seller through a marketplace facilitator or directly resulting from a referral.

 

If the election is to comply with the notice and reporting requirements, a seller, other than a referrer acting in its capacity as a referrer, subject to the notice and reporting requirements of this section must post a conspicuous notice on its marketplace, platform, web site, catalog, or any other similar medium that informs Washington purchasers that:

 

  • Sales or use tax is due on certain purchases;
  • Washington requires the purchaser to file a use tax return; and
  • The notice is provided under the requirements of the legislation. 

 

The seller must provide a notice to each consumer at the time of each retail sale that must include the following information:

 

  • A statement that neither sales nor use tax is being collected or remitted upon the sale;
  • A statement that the consumer may be required to remit sales or use tax directly to the Washington State Department of Revenue (department); and
  • Instructions for obtaining additional information from the department regarding whether and how to remit the sales or use tax to the department.

 

The notice must be prominently displayed on all invoices and order forms including, where applicable, electronic and catalog invoices and order forms, and upon each sales receipt or similar document provided to the purchaser, whether in paper or electronic form.Sellers subject to the notice and reporting requirementsmust also provide an annual report no later than February 28 of each year to each Washington purchaser stating that the seller did not collect sales or use tax on sales and that the consumer may be required to remit such tax directly to the department and including details on the purchaser’s transactions. This must be sent for first class mail if a billing or shipping address is known and if not known then via email. An annual report must also be filed with the department by February 28 of each year that includes purchasers’ information (including billing and shipping addresses and total dollar amount of the purchases) and an affidavit from a seller’s officer affirming that reasonable efforts were made to comply with notice requirements.

 

A referrer subject to the notice and reporting requirementsmust post a conspicuous notice on its platform informing Washington purchasers that:

 

  • sales or use tax is due on certain purchases;
  • the seller may or may not collect and remit retail sales tax on a purchase;
  • Washington requires the purchaser to file a use tax return if retail sales tax is not assessed at the time of a taxable sale by the seller;
  • the notice is provided under the requirements of the legislation. 

 

A referrer must send a notice by February 28 of each year to each marketplace seller to whom the referrer transferred a potential purchaser located in Washington during the previous year. The notice must state that the seller must collect and remit retail sales or use tax on all taxable retail sales sourced to Washingtonor comply with notice requirements. A referrer must also submit an annual report to the department by February 28 of each year that includes a list of sellers who received notice and an affidavit from a referrer’s officer stating that the referrer made reasonable efforts to comply with notice and reporting requirements.

 

The department MUST assess a penalty of $20,000 in addition to any other penalties against any seller, other than a referrer acting in its capacity as a referrer, or to a referrer that fails to provide notice to consumers on each order and on their marketing and sales materials.  This penalty can be assessed once per year regardless of the number of notices a seller fails to provide.  Additional penalties ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 plus $20,000 for each $50,000 in sales above $300,000 in sales for failure to issue the annual notice to consumers must be assessed.  The penalty for failure to provide the annual statement to the Department will be assessed at $25 per consumer not included in the report with a minimum penalty of $20,000.  All these penalties are cumulative and interest will accrue on the penalties.  It is apparent that Washington is “encouraging” registration and collection in lieu of the notice option by imposing such harsh penalties for non-compliance.  There are provisions for a conditional waiver of penalties if the seller enters into an agreement with the state to come into compliance with the provisions as well as some limited penalty relief due to circumstances beyond the seller’s control or due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.  There are also provisions for personal liability related to the tax for a variety of reasons (including accepting an invalid exemption certificate) – not just related to the new remote seller provisions.

 

A positive component of the bill is a limitation on class action lawsuits against retailers related to the collection of sales tax.  Consumers still have rights to file refunds directly with the department.   

 

Beginning July 1 2017, economic nexus for Washington business and occupation (B&O) tax purposes is extended to persons engaged in retail sales as long as the person has more than $267,000 in receipts from Washington, more than $53,000 property or payroll in the state, or at least 25 percent of the person’s total property, payroll, or total receipts in Washington. A person who has a substantial nexus with Washington in the current calendar year based solely on the person's property, payroll, or receipts in Washington during the current calendar year, is subject to the B&O tax imposed for the current calendar year only on business activity occurring on and after the date that the person established a substantial nexus with Washington in the current calendar year. For our previous news item on Washington’s economic nexus provisions, see Washington Enacts Click-Through and Economic Nexus Provisions. (H.B. 2163, Laws 2017)

(07/26/2017)

The Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) has announced a sales/use tax and income/franchise tax amnesty program for online sellers that will run from August 17 to November 1, 2017 (previously October 17, 2017). Qualified online sellers with potential tax liability may be able to use the MTC's voluntary disclosure agreement (VDA) to negotiate a settlement during the amnesty period if they meet certain eligibility requirements. Taxpayers that have not been contacted by any of the states participating in the amnesty program will be able to apply to start remitting sales tax on future sales without penalty or liability for unpaid, prior accumulated sales tax in the participating states. 25 MTC member states have agreed to participate in the amnesty program. The participating states include: 

 

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado (sales/use tax only)
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia (may not waive all prior periods)
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts (special provisions apply)
  • Minnesota (special provisions apply)
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska (may not waive all prior periods)
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas 
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin (will require payment of back tax and interest for a lookback period commencing January 1, 2015 for sales/use tax, and including the prior tax years of 2015 and 2016 for income/franchise tax)

 

Some of the additional states may require a limited look-back period for prior tax liabilities. Sellers who wish to participate in the program will need to file the voluntary disclosure program paperwork during the program dates. The MTC will route the paperwork for each participating state for which the seller is seeking amnesty protection. For more details visit the MTC website.

 

UPDATE: The Multistate Tax Commission's online seller amnesty program is now over. If you didn't take advantage of this program but realize you need to evaluate your activities, you can contact us here.

(11/07/2017)

On June 12, 2017, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017. A previous version of this bill had been introduced in 2016 and failed to pass. Under the proposed bill, a State may tax or regulate a person’s activity in interstate commerce only when such person is physically present in the State during the period in which the tax or regulation is imposed. Under the proposed bill, the physical presencerequirement would apply to sales and use taxand net income and other business activities taxes, as well as the states’ ability to regulateinterstate commerce. “Physical presence” in a state includes:

 

  • maintaining a commercial or legal domicile in the state;
  • owning, holding a leasehold interest in, or maintaining real property such as an office, retail store, warehouse, distribution center, manufacturing operation, or assembly facility in the state;
  • leasing or owning tangible personal property (other than computer software) of more than de minimis value in the state;
  • having one or more employees, agents or independent contractors present in the state who provide on-site design, installation, or repair services on behalf of the remote seller;
  • having one or more employees, exclusive agents or exclusive independent contractors present in the state who engage in activities that substantially assist the person to establish or maintain a market in the state; or
  • regularly employing in the state three or more employees for any purpose.

 

“Physical presence” in a state would not include:

 

  • entering into an agreement under which a person, for a commission or other consideration, directly or indirectly refers potential purchasers to a person outside the state, whether by an Internet-based link or platform, Internet Web site or otherwise;
  • any presence in a state for less than 15 days in a taxable year (or a greater number of days if provided by state law);
  • product placement, setup or other services offered in connection with delivery of products by an interstate or in-state carrier or other service provider;
  • Internet advertising services provided by in-state residents which are not exclusively directed towards, or do not solicit exclusively, in-state customers;
  • ownership by a person outside the state of an interest in a limited liability company or similar entity organized or with a physical presence in the state;
  • the furnishing of information to customers or affiliates in such state, or the coverage of events or other gathering of information in such state by such person, or his representative, which information is used or disseminated from a point outside the state; or
  • business activities directly relating to such person's potential or actual purchase of goods or services within the State if the final decision to purchase is made outside the state.

 

In addition, the bill prohibits the imposition or assessment of a sales, use or other similar tax or a reporting requirement unless the purchaser or seller has physical presence in the state.  This would prohibit all the remote seller legislation (click through, affiliate, economic, marketplace and reporting/notification). If enacted, the legislation would apply with respect to calendar quarters beginning on or after January 1, 2018. (No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017)

(07/12/2017)

On April 27, 2017, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 (MFA). Similar legislation was introduced in both 2013 and 2015 and failed to be enacted both times. If enacted, the legislation would authorize states meeting certain requirements to require remote sellers that do not meet a "small seller exception" to collect their state and local sales and use taxes. The small seller exception is set again at $1 million of remote sales annually. The only other significant change from the 2015 version is a prohibition of making the effective date during the 4th quarter of the calendar year. For information on the previous versions of the bill, visit Senate Introduces Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015.  

 

On April 27, 2017, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Remote Transactions Parity Act (RTPA) of 2017. Similar legislation was introduced in 2015 but failed to be enacted. Like the MFA, the legislation would also create sales and use tax collection obligations for remote sellers, but has some differences and additional provisions. Some key differences from the Marketplace Fairness Act include a different definition of a small seller.  The RTPA has a phased in threshold starting at $10million in year one, then $5million, then $1million.  In year 4, there is no threshold.  In addition to the monetary thresholds, any seller that sells on an electronic marketplace is considered a small seller.  A difference from the 2015 version of the bill is an inclusion of a definition of remote seller which specifies when a company is NOT a remote seller which includes physical presences for more than 15 days in a state, leasing or owning real property and using an agent to establish or maintain the market in a state if the agent does not perform business services in the state for any other person during the taxable year.  For more information on the Remote Transaction Parity Act of 2015, visit House Introduces Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015. (Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017, Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017)

(05/04/2017)

On August 25, 2016, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte released a discussion draft of the Online Sales Simplification Act of 2016. The legislation would implement a “hybrid origin” approach for remote sales. Under the legislation, states could impose sales tax on remote sales if the origin state participates in a clearinghouse.In this case, the tax is based on the origin state’s baseand taxability rules. The rate would be the origin state rate, unless the destination state participates. In that case, the rate used would be a single state-wide rate determined by each participating destination state. A remote seller would only remit sales tax to its origin state for all remote sales. Only the origin state would be able to audit a seller for remote sales. Non-participating states would not be able to receive distributions from the clearinghouse. Sellers would be required to provide reporting for remotes sales into participating states to the Clearinghouse so it can distribute the tax to the destination state. We will continue to monitor activity and update when the official bill is introduced.  (Discussion draft of Online Sales Simplification Act of 2016)

(09/08/2016)

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