Supreme Court rules online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

States stand to pocket billions as Supreme Court rules internet businesses must collect sales taxes

In addition to being a win for states, the ruling is also a win for large retailers, who argued the physical presence rule was unfair.

The 5-4 decision overturns a 1992 Supreme Court precedent that effectively barred states from collecting such taxes, and could leave consumers paying more for online purchases as cash-strapped states tap a rich vein of new revenue. Recently that has been expanding with States pushing to get sales taxes on sales even when the company does not have a physical presence in that area.

In the wake of the ruling, companies like Amazon will have to keep an eye on how each state handles sales tax legislation and whether they will have to collect the funds on behalf of third-party sellers. Customers were generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they were not charged by the merchant, but the vast majority of consumers did not. They said a decision in a case involving mail-order catalogues is obsolete in an era of e-commerce.

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The ruling opens the door to a new revenue stream to fill state coffers - up to $13 billion annually, according to a federal report - while imperiling a competitive advantage that e-commerce companies had over brick-and-mortar rivals that already must collect sales tax.

Stocks of online retailers were down significantly immediately following the ruling. At issue is the case Quill Corp. v.

Still, Amazon used the law for many years to avoid collecting sales taxes initially on its book sales and then other merchandise. And the court didn't say whether states could retroactively seek sales taxes. They've negotiated on a state by state basis as they've built distribution centers around the country.

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Thursday's ruling involves a dispute between the state of South Dakota and Boston-based Wayfair Inc., along with other two other online sellers, Overstock.com Inc. and Newegg Inc.

The court was particularly strong in its language using home furnishings retailer Wayfair, a defendant in the case. Louisiana is beefing up its efforts to collect taxes on purchases made from out-of-state in... "Its advertising seeks to create an image of lovely, peaceful homes, but it also says that "'[o] ne of the best things about buying through Wayfair is that we do not have to charge sales tax.'" .

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