Articles Tagged with Amazon-Laws

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Over the past several decades nexus has been at the forefront of the state and local tax world.  Since the Quill ruling in 1992, states have aggressively created ways in which a company can have a sufficient connection to their state.  Once the connection, or “nexus,” is made, a state can require a company to charge collect and remit sales tax to it.  As the economy has changed more to an online model, states continue to play catchup to get their fair share of the taxes.

Perhaps the most popular issue on a national multi-state tax level is whether a company has nexus with a state if they use the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) services.  In short, if Amazon houses a company’s inventory in a distribution center, does that inventory create nexus – ie – an obligation for that company to collect and remit taxes to that particular state.  That question has been affirmatively answered in most jurisdictions and companies have been blindsided by huge tax obligations often spanning many years.

For those companies that have been living in fear of large tax assessments, a Multi-State Tax Amnesty was recently released by the Multi-State Tax Commission (MTC).  Effective August 17, 2017 through October 17, 2017, several states will allowed companies who used FBA programs to come forward and comply.  Under the program, if a company complies, the state will forgive back taxes, interest and penalties in exchange for several requirements on a go forward basis.   To date, the participating states are:

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On December 14, 2015, the Supreme Court of the State of Utah issued its ruling in the case of DIRECTV and DISH Network v. Utah State Tax Commission. At issue in this case was a tax scheme that provided a sales tax credit for “an amount equal to 50%” of the franchise fees paid by pay-TV providers to local municipalities for use of their public rights-of-way.

The franchise fees were imposed for the running of cable and the construction of hubs on public property. Therefore, it is exclusively cable providers who pay franchise fees and qualify for the credit. Meanwhile, satellite providers such as DIRECTV are not subject to franchise fees and do not qualify for the tax credit.

DIRECTV argued that the tax credit was a violation of the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution. The dormant commerce clause is a legal term that means that states cannot either discriminate against interstate commerce or unduly burden interstate commerce because the power to do is in the hands of Congress. From a practical perspective, allowing 50 states to regulate interstate commerce differently would cause complete chaos, so the federal government wants to reserve that power for itself. Furthermore, states’ motivation to help their own local businesses would weaken the national economy as a whole.
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Over the past few years many retailers and online companies have turned to shopper’s personal webpages for advertising. In our current online marketplace, individuals can post items, outfits, and recipes to their social media sites. Piggybacking on our growing use of social media in our daily lives, companies have taken advantage of this by paying individuals for tweets, posts, and other social media disseminations that drive customers to a company or online retailer. Using this tactic, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pintrest are being transformed into paid promotion generators. Social Media.jpgAn October 2012 article written in the New York Times that can be found here, discusses a Manhattan talent agent. In her free time the shopper posts various fashion items to her social media sites, such as lipsticks on her Pintrest account and her “night life collection” on Beso (which apparently is a shopping website.) If her posts drive customers to the lipstick site or Beso, the companies will reward her by paying her a fee. Some sites, such as Beso pay users around 14 cents for every click the individual sends to Beso. While other retailers, such as Pose, pay only when a product is purchased resulting from the click (usually around 5%). According to the article, the Manhattan talent agent makes about $50/month from promotion fees.

After reading this article, I am sure many readers had the same thought I did – can the fee paid from the retailer to the individual create nexus for sales tax purposes? Actually, I am sure the only people that even thought about this are state and local tax attorneys like me who spend many of their hours reading about sales tax laws. On a serious note, it does present an interesting sales tax law issue as to whether these activities can create nexus to an online retailer who has nothing in the state aside from a shopper who happens to post their products to social media.
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