California nexus created by out-of-state online retailer.

In California, the distribution of coupons can be considered a selling activity under state law. The California State Board of Equalization determined an out-of-state online retailer was responsible for use tax on sales to all California customers because of their affiliation with an in-state store. Customers purchasing items at these particular in-state stores were given a promotional shopping bag with both the affiliate’s and the online retailer’s logos on them. Inside were coupon books that could only be redeemed at the online retailer’s business. The online retailer also paid for all printing costs and the insertion of the coupons into the shopping bags. The online retailer argued that solicitation was not a selling activity but the SBE considered the situation a joint marketing activity in which a customer base was being targeted. They also stated the efforts the in-state representatives made were an integral part in assisting the out-of-state sales for the online retailer. (Barnes&, California State Board of Equalization, Mem. Opin. SC OHB 97-732835, September 12, 2002)

Posted on December 15, 2002