Thursday, June 23, 2011

Connecticut Amends Its Affiliate Nexus Law To Mirror Illinois

We have written frequently in recent months about affiliate nexus legislation introduced this legislative session in a number of states, and enacted recently in Illinois, Arkansas, Connecticut and, on a deferred basis (to take effect only after 15 states have adopted similar legislation) Vermont. (A similar bill has been passed in California, but has not yet been signed by Governor Brown.) Nearly every such bill has closely paralleled the affiliate nexus law adopted in New York in 2008, which provides for a presumption of nexus that can be rebutted by a retailer if the retailer can establish that its in-state affiliates have not engaged in any active solicitation in the state, but have merely posted online advertisements on behalf of the retailer that link to the retailer’s website. Illinois was the only state to adopt a law without such a rebuttable presumption.

The Connecticut legislature has now amended the affiliate nexus statute it passed in May 2011, to eliminate the rebuttable presumption and, instead, to closely mirror the Illinois law. Connecticut HB 6652, signed by Governor Malloy on June 21, repeals the affiliate nexus statute adopted in May, and instead modifies the definition of “retailer” (as well as the definition of “engaged in business in the state”) to classify as a Connecticut retailer any company that has affiliate relationships with persons in Connecticut pursuant to which the affiliates refer customers to the retailer in return for commissions or other consideration based on sales, via an online link or otherwise. The retailer must realize cumulative gross receipts of at least $2,000 on sales to Connecticut customers as a result of such referrals in order to be “engaged in business in the state.” In addition, HB 6652 makes the change in the definitions of “retailer” and “engaged in business” retroactive to May 4, 2011 – prior to the date on which the previously enacted affiliate nexus law was even adopted.

It warrants mention that the Connecticut legislature amended its affiliate nexus statute after the Performance Marketing Association filed suit in federal court in Chicago challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois law. Brann & Isaacson represents the PMA in that action.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Lone Star State Follows a Different Path Regarding Nexus

Bucking the trend of other states, Texas’ Governor recently vetoed proposed legislation to expand the scope of the Texas sales and use tax law regarding collection of sales and use tax. The proposed legislation—HB 2403—was approved by both houses of the Texas legislature, but vetoed by Governor Perry on May 31. This legislation was not as aggressive as that in other states that have recently adopted nexus legislation. (Illinois, Connecticut, Arkansas and Vermont are examples). It merely provided that a retailer has nexus with Texas if it has an affiliated company that operates a distribution center in Texas or if an affiliated company located in Texas performs services on behalf of the retailer or sells under the same brand name as the retailer. This was in part directed at the Amazon situation in which an affiliate of operated a distribution center in the state of Texas (that reportedly led to a $269 million assessment of sales tax by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts).

A piece of good news for sellers of digital goods does result from the legislature’s work on the bill. The legislation, as introduced, also provided that use by a remote seller of a website on a server in Texas from which digital goods are sold or delivered creates nexus. However, the House Committee that first reviewed the bill removed the language before submitting the bill to the full House for a vote. This may signify that such activity does not create nexus in Texas. But, before embarking on any such activity in Texas, a seller of digital products should examine carefully the Texas law and applicable constitutional cases in light of the proposed sales activity.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Performance Marketing Association Files Lawsuit Challenging Illinois Affiliate Nexus Law

Performance Marketing Association, Inc. (“the PMA”), the leading trade association in the United States representing the interests of businesses, organizations, and individuals using and supporting performance marketing methods, filed a lawsuit yesterday in Federal District Court in Chicago against the Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, Brian A. Hamer. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Illinois affiliate nexus law, HB 3659Brann & Isaacson attorneys George Isaacson and Matthew Schaefer are counsel to the PMA in connection with the suit.

The case is captioned Performance Marketing Association, Inc. v. Hamer, Federal District Court, Northern District of Illinois, case no. 1:11-cv-03690. A copy of the PMA’s Complaint is available here.

In its complaint, the PMA asserts that HB 3659 unlawfully targets the business of online performance marketing in order to expand Illinois’ regulatory authority beyond its borders. We have previously written about HB 3659 several times, including here and here. The PMA alleges that the law, which goes into effect July 1, 2011, violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, and the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act (“ITFA”), by using the relationships between Illinois publishers of online advertisements and out-of-state advertisers as grounds for imposing use tax collection and reporting obligations on Internet retailers located outside the state. The enactment HB 3659 has damaged thousands of Illinois publishers through the loss of advertising contracts with Internet retailers.