The NCSL Blog


By Lisa Sorenen

U.S. Supreme CourtThe U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. South Dakota asks the Supreme Court to overturn Quill in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

In March 2015 Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this court to re-examine Quill.” Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) stated in its amicus brief in that case. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed laws requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law was the first to be ready for review by the Supreme Court.

In September, South Dakota’s highest state court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the Supreme Court to overrule it. In October, South Dakota filed a certiorari petition asking the Supreme Court to hear its case and overrule Quill.

It is possible, though not yet certain, the court will hear this case this term, meaning it would issue an opinion by the end of June 2018. 

The SLLC filed an amicus brief asking the court to hear this case. Tillman Breckenridge, Bailey & Glasser, wrote the SLLC amicus brief which the following organizations joined: the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, National School Boards Association,  the School Superintendents Association, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Lisa Soronen is executive director of the State and Local Legal Center and a frequent contributor to the NCSL Blog on judicial issues.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.