GUEST VIEW: Supreme Court and online sales taxes: Common sense wins out

The following editorial was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

(TNS) The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to allow states to impose sales taxes on online purchases by their residents is a triumph of common sense.

Factions didn’t break along the usual ideological divide. It was striking to see both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas — arguably the court’s most liberal and conservative members, respectively — agree with swing Justice Anthony Kennedy’s argument that a 1992 decision governing interstate commerce that was issued before the emergence of the modern internet wasn’t relevant enough to justify the finding that states can only tax stores with physical presences within their borders.

No, it’s not logical or obvious that a tax ruling related to purchases made via mail-order catalogs should apply to today’s e-commerce.

In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that this was another case of judges playing a role intended for Congress. But Kennedy wrote that the court was instead cleaning up a mess it created in 1992 and that its actions were consistent with past decisions related to interstate commerce.

Given that 19 of the 20 largest retailers already collect online sales taxes — regardless of whether they have a physical presence in a state — the court majority has essentially given its blessing to a taxation framework that’s already in place. But the clarity this ruling provides is still needed and welcome.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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