High Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax
By JESSICA GRESKO
Friday, June 22
WASHINGTON (AP) — States will be able to force more people to pay sales tax when they make online purchases under a Supreme Court decision Thursday that will leave shoppers with lighter wallets but is a big financial win for states.
Consumers can expect to see sales tax charged on more online purchases — likely over the next year and potentially before the Christmas shopping season — as states and retailers react to the court’s decision, said one attorney involved in the case.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 opinion Thursday overruled a pair of decades-old decisions that states said cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The decisions made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax on certain online purchases, and more than 40 states had asked the high court for action. Five states don’t charge sales tax.
The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a customer’s purchase to a state where the business didn’t have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn’t have to collect sales tax for the state. Customers were generally responsible for paying the sales tax to the state themselves if they weren’t charged it, but most didn’t realize they owed it and few paid.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.
“Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States,” he wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Kennedy wrote that the rule “limited States’ ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field.”
The ruling is a victory for big chains with a presence in many states, since they usually collect sales tax on online purchases already. Now, rivals will be charging sales tax where they hadn’t before.
Big chains have been collecting sales tax nationwide because they typically have physical stores in whatever state a purchase is being shipped to. Amazon.com, with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third-party sellers who use the site don’t have to.
Until now, many sellers that have a physical presence in only a single state or a few states have been able to avoid charging sales taxes when they ship to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that haven’t been charging sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site Chewy.com to clothing retailer L.L. Bean.
Sellers that use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also haven’t been collecting sales tax nationwide.
Under the ruling Thursday, states can pass laws requiring out-of-state sellers to collect the state’s sales tax from customers and send it to the state. More than a dozen states have already adopted laws like that ahead of the court’s decision, according to state tax policy expert Joseph Crosby.
Retail trade groups praised the ruling, saying it levels the playing field for local and online businesses. The losers, said retail analyst Neil Saunders, are online-only retailers, especially smaller ones. Those retailers may face headaches complying with various state sales tax laws, though there are software options to help. That software, too, can be an added cost. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council advocacy group said in a statement, “Small businesses and internet entrepreneurs are not well served at all by this decision.”
Chief Justice John Roberts and three of his colleagues would have kept the court’s previous decisions in place.
“E-commerce has grown into a significant and vibrant part of our national economy against the backdrop of established rules, including the physical-presence rule. Any alteration to those rules with the potential to disrupt the development of such a critical segment of the economy should be undertaken by Congress,” Roberts wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The lineup of justices on each side of the case was unusual, with Roberts joining three more liberal justices and Ginsburg joining her more conservative colleagues.
The case the court ruled on involved a 2016 law passed by South Dakota, which said it was losing out on an estimated $50 million a year in sales tax not collected by out-of-state sellers. Lawmakers in the state, which has no income tax, passed a law designed to directly challenge the physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect sales tax and send it to the state.
South Dakota wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued several of them: Overstock.com, electronics retailer Newegg and home goods company Wayfair. After the Supreme Court’s decision was announced, shares in Wayfair and Overstock both fell. Shares in large chains with more stores traded higher.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard called Thursday’s decision a “Great Day for South Dakota,” though the high court stopped short of greenlighting the state’s law. While the Supreme Court spoke approvingly of the law, it sent it back to South Dakota’s highest court to be revisited in light of the court’s decision.
The Trump administration had urged the justices to side with South Dakota. On Twitter, President Donald Trump called the decision a “Big victory for fairness and for our country.” He also called it a “Great victory for consumers and retailers,” though consumers will ultimately be paying more and businesses weren’t uniformly cheering the decision.
The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair, 17-494.
Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko
Urge Graduates to Create a Culture of Kindness and Respect
May 13, 2018 by Carrie Lukas
Graduates will enter a country offering boundless opportunity. More than ever before, they will have the ability to define and pursue their own versions of happiness. But they know that already. They’ve been hearing calls to lean in and dream big throughout their lives. American society today does not lack for people eager to make a difference.
What we lack today is a culture of kindness. We’ve lost the ethic of encouraging people to respect others, even those with whom they disagree.
Brené Brown, author of “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone,” would be an ideal graduation speaker to advance this urgently needed message. In this book, she highlights trends with which recent grads are likely to be all too familiar: Our increasingly polarized culture and public debates; the increased isolation and loneliness that too many people today feel.
Brown notes the irony that our ability to sort ourselves, so that we are surrounded by those who share our beliefs, hasn’t made us feel a greater connection with our community. Rather, it has left us feeling disconnected. Political debates today seek not just to convince people that those with different views are wrong but that they are untrustworthy, ill-intended and even less human. Our lack of interaction with people with different views makes it easier for us to accept attempts to objectify and humiliate them.
Social media — which is increasingly a primary vehicle for interacting with others and expressing our political beliefs — has driven this lack of civility. People who would never consider insulting someone to their face or using profanity among strangers feel free to insult and denigrate others with the anonymity of being online.
The next generation ought to be reassured that it doesn’t have to be that way. Brown urges people to have the courage to reject the tribalism that is at the core of this desire to put others into out groups. She counsels people to “move in,” and recognize other people as unique and vulnerable human beings. It’s much harder to hate someone from up-close.
Another important message for new graduates that Brown shares is to remember that it’s OK not to have all the answers. You don’t need to pretend to have an informed opinion about everything. No one does. Recognizing what you don’t know is a sign of thoughtfulness and maturity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, rather than offer your opinions, during a conversation. You’ll learn from the process even if you don’t agree with everything the other person shares.
Brown urges the public to reject the false dichotomy of having to pick sides, as if the world and every debate is divided neatly into two competing teams. Life is more nuanced and complicated than that. It takes bravery and maturity to step out from the pack and refuse adopting wholesale the positions and assumptions in “your” group. Being willing to reject both extremes and stand alone is central to maintaining your integrity and true individuality.
New graduates should look for opportunities for real connection. Social media and sharing pictures is no substitute for sharing actual experiences with someone.
Brown highlights the power of joining with groups for big celebrations or sharing times of grief. Maintaining a connection to society more broadly is important just as it’s important to maintain deep personal friendships and relationships. This connection to humanity is a foundation of mental and physical heath, and overall well-being.
New graduates don’t need to hear about chasing their dreams and fulfilling their potential. But they do need to be reminded that kindness and conviction can stand together, and help build a better future and stronger society; that standing up strongly for your beliefs doesn’t require attacking or belittling others.
Rebuilding civil discourse and a culture of respect is among the great challenges facing graduates, and they should be encouraged to recognize this as a vital and worthy goal.
About the Author
Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum.
Twenty-Somethings Enter the Workforce
May 13, 2018 by Jill Ebstein
We are at that time of year when we salute our newly minted college graduates and breathe a sigh of relief for having crossed the finish line. This is, after all, the culmination of hard work and big dreams.
Yet after the dust has settled — after the commencement speakers have packed up and the bubbly toasts have been drunk — what can we expect of our newbie grads? If they enter the workforce, how will they acculturate to the workforce, and can hiring organizations set the table for a more successful transition?
I recently completed a project working with a group of 20-somethings to hear how they view their world. They shared their aspirations, challenges and lessons learned along the way. I also surveyed their attitudes on several key topics. My goal was to replace stereotypes with a deeper view and hopefully engage in a richer conversation between generations. I wondered if there was some “secret sauce” that could help them transition post graduation, especially those that land in traditional organizations. Based on our conversations and their completion of a survey, two ideas emerged as possible focal points.
First, a small recap on some of the generational differences that can make the transition awkward. Baby boomers like myself have long held that through hard work and paying our dues, we can ascend the career ladder, and maybe even earn the proverbial gold watch. True, some get kicked off the ladder, and watches are passe anyway (unless it is an Apple watch).
Our kids see the career ladder as broken, replaced by a gig economy. Gig stints are shorter, with far less value placed on a worker’s loyalty or duration on the job. Millennials are more focused on building their own brand so that they can be independent, in demand and gig-hop easily. If the gigs align with an individual’s social values and altruistic goals, the roots deepen and the gig can be longer.
This context highlights two areas where organizations can improve the length and quality of our graduates’ work experience.
Idea One: Develop a Model of Peer Learning
Twenty-somethings value learning from their peers at least as much if not more than they do from their managers. My survey shows that they value life experience the highest as a source of primary learning (9.2 on a scale of 1 to 10), followed by peers and the internet, which tie with a 7.9 rating. When I probed “peers versus managers” as a source of learning, I heard that peers take more time and truly understand them while managers are often self-serving or focused on fighting organizational battles.
This is not to say that managers can’t positively affect and shape their team. However, there appears a paradigm shift regarding relative value of peer versus manager as it relates to learning. In today’s environment, managers have lost some of their learning clout.
This raises many questions. In peer learning, how do we know that the right learning is occurring? Is there a natural and non-intrusive way for oversight? Is peer learning another version of the belief that our best answers come from within teams, versus a top-down command structure?
Idea Two: Embrace a Fluid Culture of ‘Anchored With Room to Roam’
Millennials have by and large traveled more, seen more and aspire to “fix” more, especially when it comes the social fabric of society. Much has been written about their distrust of authority, but to me the interesting angle is how to harness their energy and creativity to a good end.
I learned from the conversations with 20-somethings and my survey that people and mission matter most in the work setting (8.8 rating on a scale of 1 to 10) and that fun and compensation matter least (6.3 and 6.5 respectively). I heard a steady chorus of, “Give us the goals, and let us figure out how to best achieve them.” They want to be anchored with context and purpose but given room to roam.
This is far different than my professional coming of age, where I learned to build a “10-step business plan.” Each step was defined, and thoroughness rather than creativity was valued. While I honed some solid business planning skills, no personal stamp was applied. This would not work today.
My take-away from engaging 20-somethings in their wants and wishes? We can continue to do as we have done — teach the way we’ve been taught, using the tried and true methods that got us to the dance. Or we can change things up and recognize the opportunity to improve. Tomorrow’s winning organizations will adapt their culture to a generation that is built very differently. Peer learning, and anchoring with room to roam are two good places to start.
About the Author
Jill Ebstein is the editor of the “At My Pace” series of books – At My Pace: Twenty Somethings Finding Their Way” (April 2018), “At My Pace: Lessons from Our Mothers” (Nov. 2016) and “At My Pace: Ordinary Women Tell Extraordinary Stories” (2015). She’s the founder of Sized Right Marketing, a Newton, Massachusetts, consulting firm that helps Fortune 500 companies use the customer voice to develop workable strategies that will yield results. She holds a bachelors degree from Washington University and an MBA from Wharton.
1956 to 2018: The Evolution of America’s Interstate Highway System
Geotab, a global leader in IoT and connected transportation, released an interactive infographic map showcasing the evolution of America’s Interstate Highway System, which has grown to nearly 50,000 miles long since the beginning of its construction in 1956. The infographic map highlights major interstate developments and provides details about the cities each highway serves.
1956: Missouri’s I-70 (aka Mark Twain Highway) is the first interstate to be fully constructed with funding from the Federal Highway Act.
1974: The completion of I-5 in California links Canada and Mexico with one seamless route.
1986: Final sections of I-80 open to traffic, making it the first coast-to-coast highway.
Interactive Infographic by Geotab Showcases the Evolution of America’s Interstate Highway System
Nearing 50,000 miles, the network enables transportation and trade across the U.S.
Toronto, ON – June 26, 2018 – Geotab, a global leader in IoT and connected transportation, today announced the launch of its interactive infographic depicting the evolution of America’s iconic Interstate Highway System. The interactive timeline allows users to watch the network expand over the years, providing a detailed look at the development of the infrastructure that has supported transportation and trade across the America for several decades.
Today, the Interstate Highway System accounts for 25% of all highway traffic in the United States. As the system nears a major milestone, with the total network approaching 50,000 miles in length, Geotab created the interactive infographic to highlight the development of the highway system in the U.S. throughout the years.
Since its inception in 1956, the Interstate Highway System has been regarded as the backbone of U.S. commerce and infrastructure, playing a vital role in America’s economic growth. The map highlights major developments over the last 60 years, such as the 1974 completion of the I-5 that now connects Mexico and Canada with a singular route and the opening of the I-80, the country’s first coast-to-coast highway.
Geotab’s “Evolution of the Interstate ” infographic provides the public with the ability to watch the Interstate Highway System expand over the years, enabling them to engage with particular dates and sections of the extensive network. The interactive map also includes relevant details about the city each highway serves, the length of that specific highway, and provides the total mileage covered by the entire network in any given year.
“As America’s Interstate Highway System approaches a major milestone, we wanted to pay tribute to this intricate and expansive network,” said Maria Sotra, VP of Marketing at Geotab. “Connecting people, enabling business and providing a straightforward path across one of the largest countries in the world, the nearly 50,000 miles of highway that makes up the Interstate Highway System has has played an undeniable role in transportation and trade in the United States.”
Explore the interactive map in full here: https://www.geotab.com/evolution-of-interstate/.
Geotab is advancing security, connecting commercial vehicles to the internet and providing web-based analytics to help customers better manage their fleets. Geotab’s open platform and Marketplace, offering hundreds of third-party solution options, allows both small and large businesses to automate operations by integrating vehicle data with their other data assets. As an IoT hub, the in-vehicle device provides additional functionality through IOX Add-Ons. Processing billions of data points a day, Geotab leverages data analytics and machine learning to help customers improve productivity, optimize fleets through the reduction of fuel consumption, enhance driver safety, and achieve strong compliance to regulatory changes. Geotab’s products are represented and sold worldwide through Authorized Geotab Resellers. To learn more, please visit www.geotab.com and follow us @GEOTAB and on LinkedIn .