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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)

On July 14, 2016, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2016.  Taking the opposite approach of the Marketplace Fairness Act and Remote Transactions Parity Act, this proposed bill would limit the ability of states to require remote sellers to collect use tax. If enacted, the Act would codify the physical presence requirement established by the US Supreme Court in Quill Corp v. North Dakota.  The bill would define physical presence and create a de minimis threshold. If enacted, the bill would preempt click-through nexus, affiliate nexus, reporting requirements and marketplace nexus legislation. The bill would be effective as of January 1, 2017. The bill defines “seller” and provides that states and localities may not:

 

  • Obligate a person to collect a sales, use or similar tax; 
  • Obligate a person to report sales; 
  • Assess a tax on a person; or 
  • Treat the person as doing business in a state or locality for purposes of such tax unless the person has a physical presence in the jurisdiction during the calendar quarter that the obligation or assessment is imposed.

 

Persons would be considered to have a physical presence only if during the calendar year the person: 

 

  • Owns or leases real or tangible personal property in the state; 
  • Has one or more employees, agents or independent contractors in the state specifically soliciting product or service orders from customers in the state or providing design, installation or repair services there; or 
  • Maintains an office in-state with three or more employees for any purpose.

 

Physical presence would not include: 

 

  • Click-through referral agreements with in-state persons who receive commissions for referring customers to the seller; 
  • Presence for less than 15 days in a taxable year; 
  • Product delivery provided by a common carrier; or 
  • Internet advertising services not exclusively directed towards, or exclusively soliciting in-state customers.

 

The bill defines seller to exclude marketplace providers; referrers; third-party delivery services in which the seller does not have an ownership interest; and credit card issuers, transaction or billing processors or financial intermediaries.Marketplace Providers are defined as any person other than the seller who facilitates a sale which includes listing or advertising the items or services for sale and either directly or indirectly collects gross receipts from the customer and transmits the amounts to the marketplace seller. (No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2016 (H.R. 5893))

 

UPDATE: This bill failed to pass during the 114th Congressional Session running from January 3, 2015 to January 3, 2017.  Therefore, this bill has died and would need to be reintroduced to be considered and voted on.

(08/23/2016)

An out-of-state retailer that sold nutritional supplements in Washington was liable for sales tax and B&O tax because it had substantial nexus with Washington. The company made wholesale sales to retailers and distributors and retail sales through infomercials. Employees of the company traveled to Washington to participate in trade shows, sales staff training, and promotional planningto support its wholesale sales. The company engaged marketing firms to assist in marketing its products in Washington. The marketing firms solicited sales from the taxpayer’s wholesale customers, received orders, and acted as intermediaries with retailers on promotional programs. The taxpayer asserted that the Commerce Clause prohibited Washington from subjecting the retail sales to sales tax. However, due to the company’s substantial physical presence in Washington, the Commerce Clause did not preclude taxation. Regarding liability for B&O tax, the company had substantial nexus because its in-state activities supported its abilities to establish and maintain a market for its goods in Washington. There is no requirement that the activities that create the nexus with the state be connected to specific sales. The company’s wholesale sales and marketing apparatus allowed it to obtain information on Washington’s nutritional products market. Additionally, its wholesale activities created a market for its retail sales, since its sales at grocery and drug stores resulted in phone inquiries from individuals. (Irwin Naturals v. Department of Revenue, The Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One, No. 73966-2-I, July 25, 2016)

(08/23/2016)

An out-of-state wholesaler of vehicle chassis did not create nexus in Washington for business and occupation (B&O) tax purposes with respect to one type of chassis it sold because all chassis sold were delivered to body shops outside of Washington to be incorporated into vehicles that were then delivered by the body shops to dealers in Washington. According to the sample sales invoices provided by the wholesaler, all of the chassis were received outside of Washington. Accordingly, the sales of the chassis occurred outside Washington and were, therefore, not subject to Washington B&O tax.  However, the wholesalerdid create nexus in Washington with respect to another type of chassis it sold because warranty services were offered by the wholesaler through a third-party in Washington.Rule 193(102)(d)(vii)(B) expressly includes “[b]eing available to provide services associated with the product sold (such as warranty repairs, installation assistance or guidance, and training on the use of the product), if the availability of such services is referenced by the seller in its marketing materials, communications, or other information accessible to customers” as an activity establishes nexus. The wholesaler and affiliates shared the same web site and there was no distinction between them in terms of offering of products and services.  (Determination No. 15-0279, Washington Department of Revenue, January 31, 2016)

(02/23/2016)

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