March 2, 2018


AASA Joins Groups in Amicus on South Dakota v. Wayfair Case

AASA was pleased to sign on to an amicus brief, filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other national organizations, one of the most important cases of the organization's 35-year tenure:  South Dakota v. Wayfair.  In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to rule that states and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Ruling this way will require the Supreme Court to overturn long-standing precedent.   

SPLC provided background on the case, which we are happy to share here:

In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state.

Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.

Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sale tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress has the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill but has thus far not done so. 

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the 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 in clear violation of Quill. South Dakota’s law was the first ready for Supreme Court review. It requires out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax if they annually conduct $100,000 worth of business or 200 separate transactions in South Dakota. 

The SLLC amicus brief points out that states and local governments lost an estimated $26 billion in sales tax revenue in 2015 because they were unable to collect owed taxes. The brief encourages the Court to overturn Quill. If the Court decides to replace the physical presence requirement the SLLC encourages the Court to adopt an economic nexus requirement—like the one the South Dakota legislature adopted.  

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in this case on April 17. It will issue an opinion by the end of June.  

To learn more about the case listen to this podcast.


March 1, 2018(1)


AASA Urges Congress to Fund Secure Rural Schools in FY18 Appropriations Package

AASA sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, and the full Congress, urging them to include funding for the Secure Rural Schools/Forest Counties program in the final FY18 appropriations.

We were disappointed that when Congress did provide additional hurricane aid and funded other programs, they did not fund Secure Rural Schools.  Congress made a longstanding commitment to rural students and communities when it passed and extended Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act of 2000.  The commitment was upheld until Congress stopped funding SRS after FY15.  Secure Rural Schools funds essential education, transportation and public safety programs critical to rural forest counties, communities and schools. Rural communities rely on SRS to offset lost tax revenue from lands transferred to federal ownership.  Without SRS the lost tax revenue remains unavailable without economic alternatives even as the lands remain federally owned.  In the meantime, Congress fails to fund SRS and is unable to adopt forest management policies to help restore economic stability in the rural forest communities. 

 When Congress failed to adequately fund the program, rural counties found themselves facing or absorbing deep, damaging cuts, as the SRS program was reverted to a timber receipt funding formula that originated more than 100 years ag. Absent adequate SRS support, these rural communities are forced to cut programs supporting essential safety, fire, police, road and bridge, community and education services. As Congress completes its final negotiations on a FY18 Omnibus Appropriations package, it is critically important the package include SRS funding. Our full letter is here.