On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed half a century of legal precedent in a landmark 5-4 decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. Under prior law, a state was forbidden from collecting sales tax against out-of-state sellers unless the sellers had physical presence within the state (such as a business location, employees, or property).
The physical presence standard arose from a decision in a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case, National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue of Illinois. In that case, the Court held that a mail-order company, whose only connection with customers in Illinois was by common carrier or U.S. mail, did not have sufficient connection with the state to warrant allowing it to tax the company. In 1992, the Court affirmed that holding in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. The physical presence standard established by the Court in Bellas Hess and Quill has been a bright-line rule that presided over the rise of Internet commerce. That rule has now changed!
As we have been discussing these past several weeks, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) drastically changed the Federal income tax landscape. The TCJA also triggered a sea of change in the income tax laws of states like Oregon that partially base their own income tax regimes on the Federal tax regime. When the Federal tax laws change, some changes are automatically adopted by the states, while other changes may require local legislative action. In either case, state legislatures must decide which parts of the Federal law to adopt (in whole or part) and which parts to reject, all while keeping an eye on their fiscal purse.
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.