The sales tax invasion has begun

In zombie movies, unsuspecting innocents often fail to recognize that the zombie apocalypse has begun. The first of the undead stumble through the village or city unnoticed or mistaken for drunks. Only when it’s too late do the living realize they’re surrounded.

This horror movie cliche came to mind when Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan released a letter on Wednesday urging Congress to pass a one-year moratorium on internet sales tax collections that were allowed by this year’s Wayfair ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Some states have established implementation dates as soon as January 1, 2019,” they wrote jointly with Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley.

In zombie movies, as in real life, politicians are usually the last to know.

The Union Leader story on the senators’ letter put the big news at the bottom: The Attorney General’s Office has received its first query from a New Hampshire retailer who has received a sales tax notice from another state.

That’s confirmation that cross-border sales tax collections into New Hampshire are no longer theoretical. The vanguard is here.

The letter was from Indiana. Indiana is not waiting until Jan 1, 2019. It’s post-Wayfair sales tax law took effect on October 1. The letter to the New Hampshire retailer was dated November 9, Senior Assistant Attorney General Frank Fredericks confirmed.

“It was more of a you may qualify” letter, and not a collection letter, Fredericks said. Coming only five 1/2 weeks after Indiana’s law took effect, it indicates that states will move quickly to begin the process of identifying and contacting retailers that sell to their residents.

Indiana is hardly the only state with a post-Wayfair law already in effect. New Jersey’s took effect on November 1. As this newsletter reported over the summer, Vermont’s law predated the Wayfair decision and took effect on July 1.

In their letter, the senators also asked Congress to ban retroactive cross-border sales tax collections. Again, it’s a welcome initiative, though a little late. New Jersey’s law covers sales in the “current or prior calendar year.”

States also are preparing to go after individuals who sell through marketplaces such as Etsy and Ebay. The Multistate Tax Commission’s Uniformity Committee recommended in October that states require marketplaces to collect sales taxes from their vendors.

Panelists at a Bloomberg-sponsored conference in Washington on Thursday predicted that every state with a sales tax will pursue requirements next year compelling marketplaces to collect sales tax from their vendors, Law360 reported.

With no federal or state law in place to protect them, New Hampshire businesses and marketplace sellers are completely vulnerable.

“It’s a little bit of a wild west show because nobody knows where it’s going or how it’ll play out.” Nancy Kyle, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Retailers Association, told The Broadside.

Legislators can provide some certainty — and protections — next year, though they should act quickly. With non-sales-tax states outnumbered 45-5, the odds of Congress passing protecting legislation is about as good as surviving a zombie attack when outnumbered by the same ratio.

2 replies
  1. Joe M says:

    Folks, if you want to do something about sales tax burdens on businesses, how about an honest discussion with taxpayers about their individual responsibilities?

    It seems organizations such as yours, pundits and politicians fear telling consumers what they need to hear. That they’re the root of the problem. Why is that?

    There’s one reason and one reason only that States feel compelled to pursue vendors to collect sales tax: individual taxpayers have been evading their States’ use taxes since before the Internet and they’ve proven they cannot be trusted to pay it using an honor system. They’re dishonest. Over 98% of taxpayers who live in States with a use tax do not pay their use tax on goods purchased from out-of-State sellers.

    These same individuals have the audacity to complain about others not paying taxes while they gleefully avoid paying use tax on every product shipped to them from other States. Billions of dollars in evaded taxes. Hypocrites of the worst kind. More than 98 out of 100 are guilty of failing to pay use tax which, statistically, includes most of the people in your organization unless they’re residents of one of the 5 States with no use tax.

    So either call people out for what is already known to be a fact, or quit whining about the burden on businesses. These businesses are owned, managed and staffed by the same consumers who avoid paying their use tax. They’ve brought this on themselves.

  2. Gary says:

    It would interesting to see the legal basis on a federalism level, for a state like NH to put into legislation a statute that says that no NH citizen is liable to any other state to act as an agent for their tax collection system. NH could make it an entitlement or privilege by law, and something that is considered illegal to the extent that the state attorney would defend any NH resident against any out-of-state tax claim.
    Such a policy would make it very rapidly non-cost effective for another state to pursue any NH resident for presumptive taxation.

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