NELSON V. SEARS, ROEBUCK & CO., 312 U. S. 359 (1941)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nelson v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 312 U.S. 359 (1941)

Nelson v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.

No. 255

Argued January 13, 14, 1941

Decided February 17, 1941

312 U.S. 359


The Iowa Use Tax Act, complementing a sales tax, requires every retailer maintaining a place of business within the State, at the time of making sales of tangible personal property for use within the State, to collect from the purchaser the tax imposed. The amount required to be collected is made a "debt" of the retailer to the State. Failure to collect the tax subjects a foreign corporation to revocation of its permit to do business within the State. Held that a foreign corporation which maintained retail stores in Iowa may constitutionally be required to collect the tax in respect of mail orders, sent by Iowa purchasers to out-of-state branches of the corporation and filled by direct shipment by mail or common carrier from those branches to the purchasers,

Page 312 U. S. 360

even though such orders were not solicited or placed by any of the corporation's agents in Iowa. Pp. 312 U. S. 361, 312 U. S. 364.

1. The collection of the tax in such case is a burden which the State may impose on the corporation as a price for enjoying the full benefits of its Iowa business. P. 312 U. S. 364.

2. Since the use tax and the sales tax are complementary, and sales made wholly within the State bear the same burden as the mail order sales, there is no discrimination against interstate commerce. P. 312 U. S. 364.

3. That the corporation is in competition with out-of-state mail order houses which, because they are not authorized to do business in Iowa, need not and do not collect the tax on their sales to Iowa purchasers does not invalidate the operation of the Act as to it. P. 312 U. S. 365.

4. Nor is the Act invalid because of the cost or inconvenience to the corporation of collecting the tax, nor because of losses it may sustain in making deliveries before collecting the tax. P. 312 U. S. 365.

228 Iowa 1273. 292 N.W. 130, reversed.

Certiorari, 311 U.S. 630, to review the affirmance by the state supreme court of a decree enjoining the enforcement against respondent of provisions of the Iowa Use Tax Act as applied to mail order sales.

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