Clicking 'checkout' could cost more after Supreme Court case


Big retailers like Amazon and Walmart collect sales tax on all online sales in the 45 states with a statewide sales tax.

It does seem fair, because as it now stands, certain retailers have an unfair advantage over others.

At the time, the court cited state sales tax laws that were too complicated for retailers to know how much to collect unless they had a physical presence in that specific state. However, the vast majority of purchasers do not pay tax on these transactions (98-99%), and it's likely that many aren't even aware of this law.

But numerous sales these small retailers get are through bigger sites like Amazon and Walmart.

If it's reversed, that could mean all online retailers have to collect taxes everywhere.

Supporters want to overturn the ruling in the "Quill vs North Dakota" case that prevented catalog sellers to remit sales taxes. There are billions of dollars of tax revenue at stake here, as well as a huge potential burden on small businesses.

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"The current tax system favors online retailers over brick-and-mortar businesses, and undermines fair and open competition in the marketplace", the National Retail Federation argues in a brief it filed in the case. But other online sellers, from 1-800 Contacts to home goods site Wayfair, can often sidestep charging the tax.

"South Dakota's choice to forego its remedy for back taxes in the event that the Court were to overrule [existing law] will not limit the retroactive application of such a ruling with respect to other state and local jurisdictions", said Wayfair's attorneys.

Online retailers said reversing the 1992 precedent is a negative move in terms of e-commerce.

Many small retailers depend on online sales.

But small businesses that sell online say the complexity and expense of collecting taxes nationwide could drive them out of business. "Now it might be something else that is going to take them back a step".