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Online sales tax: Supremes will have their say

January 17. 2018 6:17PM

Even as revenue agents in Vermont and New York try to slap their taxes on New Hampshire liquor sales, states with sales taxes continue to try to collect from New Hampshire customers who buy things online.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court found that businesses could not be expected to collect taxes for states unless they had a physical presence in them. It would be a burden to keep up to date with the thousands of state and local taxes that could be applied, depending on where their customers lived.

But last week the court agreed to take up a challenge to a South Dakota law designed to reverse that precedent. Sales tax states want the money. Brick-and-mortar stores argue they are at a disadvantage because customers can avoid sales taxes by ordering online.

When she was New Hampshire’s governor, Jeanne Shaheen pushed a broadbased sales tax. But since she entered the U.S. Senate, Shaheen has actively opposed efforts to let states collect sales taxes on online purchases.

There’s not much she can do to sway the Supremes, but she is putting up a fight. There are simply too many senators from sales tax states for Congress to put a stop to this blatant money grab.

We hope the court has the wisdom to stick with its precedent, rather than punishing states with the wisdom to avoid broadbased sales taxes.

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