On December 31, 2018, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed B22-1070, the Internet Sales Tax Emergency Amendment Act of 2018 (Emergency Act). As of January 1, 2019, the District of Columbia now subjects digital goods to the 6% sales tax rate and imposes Wayfair-style economic nexus sales tax collection requirements. As of April 1, 2019, the District also will require marketplace facilitators to collect sales tax on behalf of their marketplace sellers.
The California Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court decision finding that transactions involving an Internet retailer headquartered in Brisbane, California, were subject to local use tax, rather than local sales tax, because title in the transactions at issue passed outside California. The court explained that when a retail seller delivers goods to a common carrier at an out-of-state warehouse for shipment to a customer in California, title will pass to the buyer at the time and place that the retailer delivers the goods to the carrier, absent an agreement to the contrary.
The Texas Comptroller ruled that the purchase of a battery system did not qualify for the manufacturing exemption from Texas sales and use taxes because it was used to store electricity, not manufacture it. The taxpayer operated a wind farm and began a project to participate in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ Fast-Responding Regulation Service (FRRS). Each participant in the FRRS was required to make energy available on demand. To do this, the taxpayer needed a battery system, which could store and maintain the electricity so it would be available and ready for distribution.
The taxpayer argued that its purchase of the battery system qualified for the manufacturing exemption – which is available for items directly used or consumed during manufacturing of tangible personal property (such as electricity) if the use or consumption is necessary for the manufacturing operation and makes or causes a chemical or physical change to the property being manufactured. The taxpayer argued that the exemption applied because the energy underwent a chemical change when the battery converted the direct current energy from the wind farm from electrical energy to chemical energy and, upon discharge, converted the chemical energy to direct current electrical energy. However, the Comptroller disagreed and ruled that the chemical change was done for storing manufactured electricity, not to manufacture electricity, and the manufacturing exemption specifically excludes property used to maintain or store tangible personal property.
The Texas Comptroller ruled that a taxpayer, which provided education and networking services for the property management industry, was not providing “information services,” but rather a non-taxable service. Taxable information services involve “furnishing general or specialized news or other current information” or “electronic data retrieval or research.” Tex. Tax Code § 151.0101(a)(10), 151.0038; Texas Rule 3.342(a)(6). Here, the taxpayer’s online courses were interactive, involved an instructor and contained tools for student assessments. Because the taxpayer provided student instruction and assessment tools, the Comptroller concluded that the education and networking services were not information services or any other taxable service. Tex. Comptroller of Pub. Accts., Comptroller’s Letter No. 2017010109, Accession No. 201809007R (Sept. 11, 2018).
This is the eleventh edition of the Eversheds Sutherland SALT Scoreboard, and the third edition of 2018. Each quarter, we tally the results of what we deem to be significant taxpayer wins and losses and analyze those results. This edition of the SALT Scoreboard includes a discussion of California combined reporting, insights regarding the Washington bad debt deduction, and a spotlight on apportionment cases.
View our Eversheds Sutherland SALT Scoreboard results from the third quarter of 2018!
The South Carolina Administrative Law Court ruled that the taxpayer was required to collect sales tax on its retail sales of prepaid cellular telephone service. The taxpayer argued that its sales did not constitute “prepaid wireless calling arrangements,” which must be “sold in units or dollars which decline with use in a known amount.” Because it sold unlimited plans, the taxpayer contended its sales did not meet this test. The court disagreed, finding the statute to unambiguously subject prepaid plans to sales tax. Although the taxpayer’s prepaid plans were unlimited, they were still subject to a known unit and known expiration date of 30 days.
The US Supreme Court recently overruled the long-standing “physical presence rule” that barred states from imposing sales tax collection requirements on certain out-of-state sellers. However, in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., the Court did not clearly state a new standard to replace the physical presence rule. States are responding to the decision in different ways. This Bottom Line videocast, Eversheds Sutherland attorneys Todd Lard and Jessica Eisenmenger discuss:
- the US Supreme Court’s decision in Wayfair
- the ambiguity of the new nexus standard
- three approaches to nexus that states are taking in the wake of the Wayfair decision
On Tuesday, June 24, the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on “Examining the Wayfair decision and its Ramifications for Consumers and Small Businesses.” The hearing was scheduled at the direction of Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and did not address any specific pending or former legislation, but instead was informational and used to assist the committee in determining whether and how Congress should intervene.
In a last-minute deal to avert a government shutdown, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature cobbled together a budget with numerous amendments to New Jersey’s tax law.
In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court today overruled its landmark decisions in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota and National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, disposing of the “physical presence” rule that has served as the bright-line standard for whether remote sellers are required to collect state sales taxes. Although the Court made clear its criticisms of the physical presence standard—referring to it as “arbitrary,” “artificial,” and a “judicially created tax shelter”—it was less clear in describing a new standard to replace it.