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Sununu directs state government to address internet sales tax issues

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 23. 2018 9:24PM
Gov. Chris Sununu (David Lane/Union Leader file photo)

CONCORD — Having failed to convince lawmakers to pass emergency legislation on internet sales taxes, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday that he’s taking action of his own to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

In that decision, the court overturned existing law that prevented other states from collecting sales taxes on transactions by online merchants based in New Hampshire, which has no sales tax. As a result, more than 10,000 jurisdictions that have a sales tax can now try to collect taxes on those transactions.

Sununu has authorized the state’s attorney general to put the highest priority on efforts to detect scams in which individuals impersonating tax collectors from other states try to extract payment or customer data from New Hampshire merchants or service providers.

The New Hampshire Department of Justice has assigned staff to research what other states or legitimate taxing jurisdictions might be doing to collect sales taxes from New Hampshire businesses.

Any New Hampshire business contacted about sales taxes by someone claiming to be a taxing authority has been asked to call the Department of Justice at 888-468-4454 or 603-271-3643.

The state has also launched a website, nheconomy.com/nosalestax, to serve as a central clearinghouse for information about developments in the wake of the Wayfair decision. The website will be updated regularly with content and information provided by multiple state agencies.

“The actions announced today are important steps that the executive branch can take while we continue to push for legislative action,” said Sununu. “While we remain hopeful that meaningful legislation can be enacted either this fall or next session, I have made clear to my administration that state government must do all it can in the meantime to protect New Hampshire businesses in the weeks and months ahead.”

Sununu called lawmakers back into special session in July in the hope they would pass legislation aimed at creating barriers to taxing the internet transactions of New Hampshire merchants.

The Senate voted, 24-0, to pass the measures recommended by a statewide task force.

But the House voted, 164-151, to strip the bill of everything but a 13-member commission that would study the issue and make a report by next July 1.

Democrats called Sununu’s executive order “meaningless,” and revived their criticism of his failure to appear at the special legislative session he had ordered.

“While legislators were meeting in the special session called by Sununu, debating how to best protect New Hampshire businesses, the governor was in Aspen at a partisan event raising money from out-of-state corporations,” said Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, deputy minority leader.

“Sununu’s special session ended up being a waste of taxpayer money and his meaningless executive actions don’t protect taxpayers,” he said.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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