Wayfair Decision Not Applicable to Remote Seller’s Refund Request in Rhode Island

An out-of-state seller’s request for a refund of Rhode Island sales and use tax was allowed since the taxpayer did not have a physical presence in the state and the period in question was pre-Wayfair. The taxpayer provides television programming services, which are generally taxable in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Division of Taxation previously denied the taxpayer’s refund request for sales tax collected and remitted on its television programming services provided in Rhode Island. The taxpayer argued that it was not subject to sales tax since it had no physical presence in the state. The taxpayer also unsuccessfully argued that the services it provides were exempt as specified digital products, which was denied. At the time the taxpayer made the refund request, the Wayfair decision was not yet applicable. Rather, physical presence in the state was required to create nexus at the time, per the Quill decision. In its decision in this matter, the Rhode Island Division of Taxation stated, “In a post Wayfair world, the outcome of this matter would most likely be different. But pre Wayfair, the fact that the Taxpayer had no physical presence in Rhode Island determines that the state cannot impose sales tax on the Taxpayer pursuant to Quill, Bella Hess, and Complete Auto…” Since the taxpayer had no physical presence in Rhode Island, its services were not subject to tax for the years at issue. As such, the taxpayer’s refund request was allowed. (Administrative Hearing Decision No. 2020-04, Rhode Island Division of Taxation, February 27, 2020)

Posted on April 29, 2020