The taxpayer, a designer, marketer, and wholesaler of apparel, footwear, jeans, and other fashion accessories, shipped products to Ohio-based distribution centers of major retailers and paid the commercial activity tax for all items shipped to the distribution centers, even those that were ultimately received by customers outside of Ohio. The taxpayer applied for a refund for gross receipts realized from products that were sent to Ohio distribution centers but were ultimately shipped to locations outside of Ohio. The taxpayer provided labels for most of the retailers it shipped to that showed where the products would ultimately be delivered, and the Department of Taxation accepted those as sufficient evidence to situs those sales outside of Ohio. However, for two retailers (DSW and Dressbarn), the labels did not indicate where the products would ultimately be delivered, so the Department sitused those sales to Ohio.

The taxpayer appealed the refund denial to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals. At the hearing the taxpayer provided evidence in the form of a report showing the distribution of each DSW product throughout all of its stores. This report was based on a data sample collected from DSW’s website over a 3-month period using custom software. The Department argued that the Board should only consider information the taxpayer had at the time it sold the products to DSW and Dressbarn and, that as far as the taxpayer knew at the time, the products were delivered to purchasers in Ohio.

While the Board rejected the Department’s argument that the taxpayer must have contemporaneous knowledge of the ultimate destination of the product at the time it is transported, the Board also determined that the taxpayer failed to meet its burden in proving that the Department’s findings (i.e., that the DSW and Dressbarn products should be sitused to Ohio) were not valid. The Board stated that the representative sample used was related to a time well after the tax period and “extremely short” in comparison (the sample looked at a period of 3 months and the tax period was 6 years). The Board also mentioned that while the taxpayer’s method may be sufficient in other circumstances, it was too far removed and reflected too narrow of a time frame to establish that the products sent to DSW and Dressbarn were ultimately received outside of Ohio. As a result, the Board affirmed the Department’s final determination.

Jones Apparel Group, et al. v. McClain, Case Nos. 2020-53, 2020-54 (Sept. 13, 2023).