Monday, August 20, 2012

Retailers Beware of the new New Jersey Gift Card Law

In the wake of the 2011 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in New Jersey Retail Merchants Association v. Sidamon-Eristoff, 669 F.3d 374 (3rd Cir. 2012),  condemning a large portion of the New Jersey statute adopted in 2010 regarding gift cards, gift certificates, and other stored value cards, the New Jersey legislature amended the statute.  S.B. (1928), Laws 2012, effective June 29, 2012.  The statute removes some of the more objectionable provisions of the old law regarding stored value cards, which are defined broadly to include gift certificates, gift cards, and any other record (tangible or electronic) that reflects a promise, for money, by the issuer or seller that the owner of the record may obtain merchandise, services, and/or cash in the amount of the face value of the record.  The statute, however, does add some strict prohibitions regarding stored value cards, and gift cards and certificates in particular.  These prohibitions are such that a retailer that issues gift cards could be exposed to significant penalties unless it makes sure its practices conform to the requirements of this statute.  At the same time, the law reduces the potential escheat of unredeemed gift cards. It also protects small issuers of stored value cards.  A company that issues stored value cards of less than $250,000 per year is not subject to the escheat and consumer protection provisions of the New Jersey statute.  Now for the details:

The features of the new law that are beneficial to retailers are that:  (1) it repeals the provision of the old law that if the issuer does not maintain the address of the owner or purchaser of the stored value card, the value of the card must be escheated to New Jersey if the card was issued there; (2) it eliminates the requirement of the old law that the issuer obtain information about the gift card purchaser or owner, but instead requires that by July 1, 2016, the issuer maintain a record of the zip code of the owner or purchaser; (3) it extends the period of abandonment (i.e. an unredeemed gift card not claimed) from two years after issuance to five years; and (4) it requires escheat of only 60% (as opposed to 100%) of the proceeds of all stored value cards other than general purpose reloadable cards, which are cards issued by a bank or other financial institution.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Committee Hearings Held on Remote Collection Bills; Coalition Forms to Demand True Simplification Of State Sales Tax Systems, Defend Quill

We have written previously about attempts by Congress to overturn the physical presence nexus standard of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota via the Main Street Fairness Act, the Marketplace Fairness Act, and the Marketplace Equity Act. The bills vary in their specifics as we discuss here and here, but most simply put, all three bills would permit states to require remote sellers to collect and remit sales and use tax despite such sellers having no physical presence in the state. While it is difficult to predict what Congress may do in an election year, it appears that so far, the Main Street Fairness Act has not made much progress through Congress since being introduced. The other two bills have seen some committee action lately, however, as discussed below.

Meanwhile, a coalition has formed to help protect remote sellers’ interests. The TrueSimplification of Taxation (“TruST”) Coalition was formed jointly by the Direct Marketing Association, the American Catalog Mailers Association, the Electronic Retailing Association, and NetChoice to represent “American businesses in the fight to keep interstate commerce and competition free from unfair tax burdens imposed by states where our businesses have no operations or representation.” Brann & Isaacson partners George Isaacson and Martin Eisenstein assisted in forming the coalition and provide ongoing advice regarding the sales and use tax collection implications to remote sellers.