Skip To The Main Content

In This Section


There’s nothing quite like a Supreme Court case to get the New England Law | Boston faculty talking! And it’s no different with the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. case, concerning whether online retailers need to collect sales tax in all states, not just the ones where they have a physical presence. Adjunct Natasha Varyani recently weighed in on the case for the New England Law Review, and you’ll find a preview of her blog below.           

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., addressing the issue of when sales tax needs to be collected by online retailers engaged in eCommerce.  In its 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota, the Court ruled that a retailer must have a “physical presence” in a state in order to be subject to that jurisdiction’s sales and use tax laws. The Court in Quill was revisiting its 1967 holding in National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue, in which it reviewed the authority of a state to impose its sales and tax laws on an out of state entity doing business in state.

Both Bellas Hess and Quill dealt with retailers that conducted sales through mail order, and their only presence in state was the catalogue of products offered. The Court in Quill cited “tremendous social, economic, commercial and legal innovations” that had occurred in the twenty-five years that had passed since its holding in Bellas Hess to justify overruling that former holding.

Twenty-six years have passed since Quill. In that time, the change in social, economic, and commercial life has been both dramatic and extremely rapid, so it only follows that the law should adapt in response…

Read the rest of Professor Varyani’s blog on the New England Law Review website.