“The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, there is a caveat: States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.
Simplification is required because of two Supreme Court rulings (Bellas Hess and Quill, described below) cite concern that collecting sales tax for multiple states would be too difficult.
The Marketplace Fairness Act requires that states must simplify their sales tax laws in order to ease those concerns and make multistate sales tax collection easy. Specifically, states seeking collection authority have two options for simplifying their sales tax laws.
Option 1: A state can join the twenty-four states that have already voluntarily adopted the simplification measures of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA), which has been developed over the last eleven years by forty-four states and more than eighty-five businesses with the goal of making sales tax collection easy. Any state which is in compliance with the SSUTA and has achieved Full Member status as a SSUTA implementing state will have collection authority on the first day of the calendar quarter that is at least 90 days after enactment.
Option 2: Alternatively, states can meet essentially five simplification mandates listed in the bill. States that choose this option must agree to:
- Notify retailers in advance of any rate changes within the state
- Designate a single state organization to handle sales tax registrations, filings, and audits
- Establish a uniform sales tax base for use throughout the state
- Use destination sourcing to determine sales tax rates for out-of-state purchases (a purchase made by a consumer in California from a retailer in Ohio is taxed at the California rate, and the sales tax collected is remitted to California to fund projects and services there)
- Provide free software for managing sales tax compliance, and hold retailers harmless for any errors that result from relying on state-provided systems and data
With states adhering to these provisions or the similar measures in SSUTA, retailers across the country will find collecting sales tax for multiple states much easier than it has ever been in the past.