In-State Activity Created Nexus for Taxation of Drop Shipments in Washington

A distributor was found liable for business and occupation (B&O) tax on “national” and drop-shipped sales because it failed to show that its activities in Washington are not associated with its ability to establish and maintain a market in-state. “National sales” were delivered to Washington, though the taxpayer’s customer placed the order outside of Washington. Drop-shipped sales were delivered into Washington to a third party at the request of the taxpayer’s customer.The taxpayer argued that the sales weren’t associated with its in-state activities since its Washington office was not used to complete the sales. However, in order for the revenue to be exempt from the B&O tax, a taxpayer must show a complete absence of connection between a local office and the sales in question to satisfy its burden. The taxpayer’s employees in Washington solicited and received orders, provided market intelligence to the corporate office, and met with sales teams. As a result, there was sufficient nexus between the taxpayer’s in-state activities and the state to impose B&O tax.Additionally, the plain language of the state’s tax law does not preclude the imposition of B&O tax on the drop-shipped sales. The pertinent rule (Rule 193) states that in order for B&O tax to be imposed on sales that originate from outside the state, the seller must have nexus and the goods must be received by the purchaser in Washington. The definition of “received” includes the physical possession or exercise of dominion over the goods by the purchaser or its agent. Since the taxpayer’s buyer designated its customer to receive the goods, the customer qualified as its agent.(Avent, Inc. v. Department of Revenue, Washington Supreme Court, No. 92080-0, November 23, 2016)

Posted on December 4, 2016