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Supreme tea leaves: Internet sales tax arguments

April 19. 2018 11:46PM

Making predictions based on oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court is a dangerous game.

A justice asking tough questions of one side may just be playing devil’s advocate. A seemingly friendly justice may end up on the other side when the decision is published.

But we are not encouraged by Tuesday’s arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg indicated her support for overturning a 26-year-old Supreme Court precedent, and allowing states to collect sales taxes on goods sold online in other states. She is the fourth justice leaning toward allowing internet sales taxes, and South Dakota only needs five.

Chief Justice John Roberts strongly objected, pointing out that Congress has not allowed states to reach across borders to collect taxes.

If states want to impose taxes on their own retailers, they may. They should not be able to force online retailers in other states to collect their taxes for them. That would require businesses across the country to comply with thousands of varying state, county, and municipal sales tax regimes.

Should Granite State firms be forced to collect sales taxes for other jurisdictions, they would lose some of the competitive advantage New Hampshire enjoys for avoiding broadbased taxes.

We hope the court upholds the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and rules against internet sales taxes.

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