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Supreme Court's E-Commerce Ruling Could Help Amazon

Supreme Court's E-Commerce Ruling Could Help Amazon

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that paves the way for states to collect sales taxes from online purchases has upended shaky tax negotiations among lawmakers in the Louisiana House.

In a 5-4 ruling reviving a South Dakota law challenged by Wayfair Inc, Overstock.com Inc and Newegg Inc, the justices overturned a 1992 high court precedent that had barred states from requiring businesses with no "physical presence" there, like out-of-state online retailers, to collect sales taxes. This is also about making sure everyone plays by the same rules, and ensuring an equal playing field between small brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers.

In 2012, analysts at the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs estimated that Missouri lost an average of $358 million annually in state and local sales and use tax revenue. "Taxes owed for online purchases have gone mostly uncollected, and have made it harder for both our state and our towns to meet the needs of Missourians all across the state". She says the court decision will "level the playing field for IL brick-and-mortar retailers".

Internet companies argued applying a sales tax would be a daunting task, as local tax laws vary widely by state.

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Many online sales sites, including Amazon and BestBuy, already collect Minnesota sales taxes.

"I think the bigger worry though for businesses here is if these states will come back for back taxes", he said.

During the 2018 regular legislative session, a few bills started out with provisions that what allowed Missouri to start collecting sales tax from online retailers in some situations, however, none of them got across the finish line.

Thursday's ruling comes after President Donald Trump's criticism of Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) on issues including taxes. "There is a chance here that it raises prices for consumers by passing on this tax increase". About half its sales involve goods owned by millions of third-party merchants, many of which don't collect taxes. But after the court ruling, most others will be required to collect them.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. North Dakota, turned on the so-called dormant commerce clause, a judge-created legal doctrine that says states can't unduly burden interstate commerce unless authorized by Congress. He said the court had other legal tools to ensure that sales taxes don't become an "undue burden" on small businesses and startups.

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.

"One vitalizing effect of the internet has been connecting small, even "micro" businesses to potential buyers across the nation", Roberts wrote.

And one of the biggest winners from that ruling, maybe ironically, could be Amazon, said Tom Forte, managing director at research firm D.A. Davidson. "The Internet's prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy", the court said in its decision in the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair.

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