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 Amazon.com 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.
It is also noteworthy that Texas is not yet done. The legislature has before it in committee a Bill—HB 1317—that would be similar to the recently-enacted Arkansas and Connecticut laws that provide for a presumption of nexus for any retailer that pays a commission or other consideration to a company located in Texas which provides a link to the retailer’s website. While the legislature adjourned on May 31, it was back in session last week and this week to consider various budget-related issues, and may reconvene yet again. It may be that this click-through legislation would be deemed legislation that the legislature will be permitted to consider under its authorization for reconvening.
Stay tuned to developments in Texas.
UPDATE: SB1, currently under review by the legislature, has been amended to include the nexus legislation vetoed by the Governor on May 31, as discussed above. We will track the progress of the Bill and keep you posted concerning any further developments.