By Michelle Graff
Jewelers of America President and CEO David J. Bonaparte called filing the amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling on online sales tax “a historic opportunity” for the industry to speak out on the issue. The court will be in session until June 2018 and hear arguments until late April.
Washington--Jewelers of America joined a group of 10 retail trade associations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Quill, the 1992 ruling that prevents states from collecting sales tax from online sellers that don’t have a physical presence in the state.

Filed Thursday, the 22-page amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief supports South Dakota’s just-filed petition to the court to reconsider Quill.

In it, the associations emphasize the negative impact they say “showrooming”--when consumers visit a store to touch, see and feel a product and learn about it from the sales staff but ultimately buy it online--has had on local sellers and retail centers in towns and cities across the country.

JA provided showrooming stories from jewelers for the brief, which began with this comment from a jeweler in Pittsburgh: “I am fine competing with online sellers, but I don’t like to see them start with a 7 percent price advantage,” he said, a reference to the total amount of sales tax he must collect.

A Beaumont, Texas jeweler who said that when a customer shops “his/her phone is out,” and that customer is using specific make and model information to research prices online.

And another Pennsylvania retailer included in the brief, a jeweler in the town of Mount Joy, said customers often ask the store to “cover” the tax for them.

This jeweler also noted that brick-and-mortar retailers do not have the option of simply curtailing their level of service for showrooming customers because they’d “get a bad view on Yelp!”

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Quill in early October, after the state Supreme Court shot down a bill passed by state legislators requiring companies that make more than $100,000 in sales or have more than 200 transactions per calendar year in South Dakota to remit sales tax whether they have a physical presence in the state or not.

It was a deliberate move by lawmakers in that state to get the issue of online sales tax in front of the highest court in the land.

The Marketplace Fairness Coalition spearheaded the filing of the amicus brief. Joining JA in supporting it were: the American Lighting Association, American Supply Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, Auto Care Association, Home Furnishings Association, National Association of Electrical Distributors, National Association of College Stores, National Ski and Snowboard Retailers Association and National Sporting Goods Association.

In addition, the National Retail Federation filed an amicus brief last week of its own urging the Supreme Court to take up the South Dakota case.

Commenting on the case, JA President and CEO David J. Bonaparte said: “We are hopeful the court will take up the South Dakota case and recognize that Quill does not reflect the retail landscape that exists today,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s current term began Oct. 2 and runs through June 2018. The last day of oral arguments is April 25, 2018, meaning the court has about six months to take up the case.

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