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The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that individual states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes, including in states where those retailers have no physical presence. The ruling was 5-4, with Associate Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch joined the majority opinion.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the dissent.

The New York Times writes that “brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping.”

Amazon, which was not involved in this case, has been collecting sales taxes for goods that it sells directly, but not for merchandise sold by third parties. MarketWatch writes that “the company dropped its long-held resistance to sales tax in recent years, after greatly expanding the number of distribution centers, warehouses and data centers that it operates across the U.S. to speed up delivery times.”
KC's View:
This strikes me as fair, though it must be pointed out that it probably is going to be easier for big companies to live up to what is going to be demanded of them - they’ll be better equipped in terms of infrastructure to adjust, while smaller businesses may be challenged.

But I do think that e-commerce is mature enough to deal with the same realities as bricks-and-mortar retailers. It is time.