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On December 16, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, for sales and use tax purposes. The Act includes a provision that extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) until October 1, 2015 with all provisions unchanged.

 

On January 9, 2015, the House of Representative introduced a bill (un-numbered) that would permanently extend the ITFA, banning states and local jurisdictions from imposing any new tax on internet access. The proposed bill removes the current effective dates of November 1, 2003 through October 1, 2015 and changes the effective date to be effective for new taxes imposed after the date of the enactment.  It is not clear if states that have been grandfathered under the existing provision could retain their current tax on internet access but it appears that may be the case.  No formal legislation has been introduced that would incorporate the Marketplace Fairness Act into this bill. The bill is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, among others.

 

For our previous news item on this topic, see Internet Tax Freedom Act is Extended Through December 11, 2014.

 

For an update on this news item, see Internet Tax Freedom Act Extended Until December 11, 2015.

 

(Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015; H.R. 235)

(02/12/2015)

A Web-based application for tracking insurance claims was exempt from South Carolina sales and use tax because the service constituted an exempt data processing service. The service provider collected claims information from insurance carriers, checked the information for completeness, and converted it into a standardized electronic format. The claims information was then loaded into a database accessible by the provider’s customers. In South Carolina, data processing services are specifically excluded from sales tax. "Data processing" means "the manipulation of information furnished by a customer through all or a part of a series of operations involving an interaction of procedures, processes, methods, personnel, and computers." It also includes the electronic transfer of, or access to, that information. The service provided qualifies as data processing since:

 

  • The web application is a service where information is provided by the customer or the customer’s insurance carrier and is manipulated by the taxpayer through a series of operations involving an interaction of procedures, processes, methods, personnel, and computers;
  • The claims information in the application is the result of the data processing performed by the provider;
  • "Data processing" includes the electronic transfer of or access to information; and
  • The web application is the means through which the customer accesses the data processing performed by the provider.

 

If the provider did not manipulate the insurance claims information but only provided a service that allowed a customer to access a website to use software to enter its own information, create reports, and perform its own data processing, then the service would be taxable as a communications service. (Private Letter Ruling #14-5, South Carolina Department of Revenue, December 10, 2014)

(02/12/2015)

President Barack Obama has signed federal legislation extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) through December 11, 2014 as part of the joint resolution which made continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2015. The ITFA was previously set to expire on November 1, 2014. The ITFA bars state and local governments from imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce and taxes on Internet access.

 

For an update to this news item, see Internet Tax Freedom Act Extended Until October 1, 2015, Permanent Extension Introduced.

 

(P.L. 113-164 (H.J. Res. 124), 113th Congress, 2nd Session, Laws 2014)

(09/26/2014)

Representative Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas) has introduced a bill to bar multiple taxes on digital goods and services.  Smith had proposed an earlier bill which failed to pass.  This bill is a revised version of the earlier bill. The proposed bill – called the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2013 – would only allow a state to tax sales of digital goods and services to customers with a tax address within that state. Additionally, states would be barred from imposing multiple taxes on digital goods. The bill defines digital goods as sounds, images, data and facts maintained in digital form. Internet access service is not included as a digital good in the bill. (H.R. 3724)

(01/28/2014)

The federal Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate on February 14, 2013.  If passed, the bill would authorize states that meet certain requirements to require remote sellers that do not meet a "small seller exception" to collect their state and local sales and use taxes.  Under the legislation, a state would be authorized to require a remote seller to collect sales and use taxes only if the remote seller has gross annual receipts in total remote sales in the United States of more than $1 million in the preceding calendar year.

 

Member states of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax (SST) Agreement would be authorized to require all sellers that do not qualify for the small seller exception to collect and remit sales and use taxes with respect to remote sales sourced to that member state pursuant to the provisions of the SST Agreement. The SST Agreement would have to include certain minimum simplification requirements. An SST member state could begin to exercise authority under the Act beginning 90 days after the state publishes notice of its intent to exercise such authority, but no earlier than the first day of the calendar quarter that is at least 90 days after the date of the enactment of the Act.

 

States that are not members of the SST Agreement would be authorized, notwithstanding any other provision of law, to require all sellers that do not qualify for the small seller exception to collect and remit sales and use taxes with respect to remote sales sourced to the state if the state implements certain minimum simplification requirements. The authority would begin no earlier than the first day of the calendar quarter that is at least six months after the state enacts legislation to exercise the authority granted by the Act.

 

To enforce collection requirements on remote sellers that do not meet the small seller exception, states that are not members of the SST Agreement would have to implement the minimum simplification requirements listed below. For SST member states to have collection authority, the requirements would have to be included in the SST Agreement.

 

-       A single entity within the state responsible for all state and local sales and use tax administration, return processing, and audits for remote sales sourced to the state

-       A single audit of a remote seller for all state and local taxing jurisdictions within that state

-       A single sales and use tax return to be used by remote sellers to be filed with the single entity responsible for tax administration.

-       Each state would have to provide a uniform sales and use tax base among the state and the local taxing jurisdictions within the state.

-       Each state would have to source all interstate sales in compliance with the sourcing definition outlined below.

-       Each state would have to provide information indicating the taxability of products and services along with any product and service exemptions from sales and use tax in the state and a rates and boundary database. States would have to provide free software for remote sellers that calculates sales and use taxes due on each transaction at the time the transaction is completed, that files sales and use tax returns, and that is updated to reflect state and local rate changes. States would also have to provide certification procedures for persons to be approved as certified software providers (CSPs). Such CSPs would have to be capable of calculating and filing sales and use taxes in all the states qualified under the Act.

-       Each state would have to relieve remote sellers from liability to the state or locality for incorrect collection, remittance, or noncollection of sales and use taxes, including any penalties or interest, if the liability is the result of an error or omission made by a CSP.

-       Each state would have to relieve CSPs from liability to the state or locality for the incorrect collection, remittance, or noncollection of sales and use taxes, including any penalties or interest, if the liability is the result of misleading or inaccurate information provided by a remote seller.

-       Each state would have to relieve remote sellers and CSPs from liability to the state or locality for incorrect collection, remittance, or noncollection of sales and use taxes, including any penalties or interest, if the liability is the result of incorrect information or software provided by the state.

-       Each state would have to provide remote sellers and CSPs with 90 days’ notice of a rate change by the state or any locality in the state and update the taxability and exemption information and rate and boundary databases, and would have to relieve any remote seller or CSP from liability for collecting sales and use taxes at the immediately preceding effective rate during the 90-day notice period if the required notice is not provided.

 

For non-SST member states, the location to which a remote sale is sourced would be the location where the item sold is received by the purchaser, based on the location indicated by instructions for delivery. When no delivery location is specified, the remote sale is sourced to the customer's address that is either known to the seller or, if not known, obtained by the seller during the transaction, including the address of the customer's payment instrument if no other address is available. If an address is unknown and a billing address cannot be obtained, the remote sale is sourced to the address of the seller from which the remote sale was made. SST member states would be required to comply with the sourcing provisions of the SST Agreement.

 

On March 22, 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 75-to-24 in favor of the concept of the Marketplace Fairness Act. The actual Marketplace Fairness Act was introduced in both chambers in February, but last week Senator Enzi, the sponsor of the Senate bill, offered an amendment to the 2014 Budget Resolution that would include insertion of the language of Marketplace Fairness in the budget. It was a largely symbolic tactic since the Budget Resolution itself will not become law, but by approving the amendment, the Senate has shown that there is broad, bipartisan support for the notion of requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax.

 

On May 6, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act with a 69-27 vote.

 

UPDATE: On September 18, 2013, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee released a set of seven principles that he believes any internet sales tax bill should meet.  The seven principles outlined by Goodlatte are tax relief, tech neutrality, no regulation without representation, simplicity, tax competition, states’ rights, and privacy rights.  For more details on the principles, click here to see the House Judiciary Committee’s press release.

 

We are continuing to track the activities of these bills.  We are also involved in planning efforts involving states and businesses regarding the potential implementation consequences of passage.  Watch for updates in the Sales Tax Compass as well as through our Twitter account and LinkedIn updates. 

 

The text of the bill passed by the Senate can be viewed here.

 

For an update on this news item, visit Senate Introduces Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015.

 

(H.R. 684 and S. 336, as introduced in Congress on February 14, 2013; S.743, as passed by the U.S. Senate on May 6, 2013)

(09/20/2013)

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