By Charles Capouet and Jonathan Feldman
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that an in-state wholesaler was required to collect and remit sales tax on drop shipment sales made to Massachusetts customers. A drop shipment is a transaction in which an in-state customer purchases a product from an out-of-state retailer which then orders the product from an in-state wholesaler and directs it to deliver the product directly to the in-state customer. The Massachusetts drop shipment rule considers the in-state wholesaler to be the vendor and requires it to collect and remit the sales tax unless it proves that the out-of-state retailers were engaged in business in Massachusetts. D&H, an in-state wholesaler in such a position, questioned its liability under the drop shipment rule, arguing that the rule required the commissioner, in each transaction, to prove that the retailer was not doing business in the state. D&H also challenged the constitutionality of the rule. The court confirmed that it was the wholesaler’s burden to prove that retailers were doing business in the state as the wholesaler has “readier access to the relevant information” and bears the general burden of claiming a tax abatement. The court also held that the drop shipment rule did not violate the dormant commerce clause because: (1) even if the rule penalized wholesale suppliers with Massachusetts nexus for doing business with out-of-state retailers, the rule would result in a disadvantage, rather than an advantage, for Massachusetts retailers; and (2) the taxpayer failed to demonstrate any unconstitutional burden created by the tax itself. D&H Distrib. Co. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 79 N.E.3d 409 (Mass. 2017).