Capturing Tax Revenue on Internet Sales: Abandoning the Streamlined Agreement for Origin Sourcing

This Note discusses the constitutional impediments to state taxing power with respect to enforcing sales and use tax collection on Internet retailers outside a state’s jurisdiction. The most current U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the issue, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, holds that a state violates the dormant Commerce Clause when it requires a business with no physical presence in its jurisdiction to collect and remit sales taxes. Congress has considered several pieces of legislation over the past two decades that would authorize states to require remote businesses, under certain conditions, to collect and remit sales tax. A majority of the legislative proposals have conditioned such authorization on states’ adoption of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which seeks to simplify states’ sale tax regimes, easing the burden on businesses. This Note argues for another solution to the issue: origin sourcing, or requiring all sales taxes to be sourced to the point of purchase. This approach not only avoids the many difficult questions presented in simplifying sales tax regimes, but also captures sales tax on every eligible transaction and preserves state and local government autonomy in approaching sales tax.