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3-year Lawsuit Over $3.76 in Interest Finally Settled

In 2017, multi-level marketing company LuLaRoe faced allegations of improperly assessing sales tax against certain customers. LuLaRoe sells clothing through “independent representatives.” According to a February 2017 report from CBS News, sales tax was collected based on where the sales representative lived, as opposed to the customer’s residence. This led to improper charges against customers who lived in states that do not assess sales tax on clothing purchases.

 

Faced with a potential class action, LuLaRoe admitted to the overcharges and provided refunds to customers. But that was not the end of the matter. A new class action complaint emerged in Alaska federal court–this time arguing LuLaRoe should have to pay interest on the sales tax funds it wrongfully collected in the first place.

Alaska Judge Rejects Customer’s Claims as “Inadequate” to Justify Legal Standing

The lead plaintiff in the Alaska lawsuit is an Anchorage woman, Katie Van. Van said she was charged $531.25 in sales tax on items that she purchased from LuLaRoe independent representatives in other states, even though Alaska itself has no statewide sales tax. And while Van later received a full refund of the sales tax she paid, she alleged the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTCPA) entitled her to collect “interest” on her damages.

 

In March 2019, U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland granted LuLaRoe’s motion to dismiss Van’s lawsuit. Holland concluded that the actual amount of interest Van seeks to collect, $3.76, was “inadequate” to sustain a federal lawsuit. Article III of the U.S. Constitution requires federal courts to establish a plaintiff’s “standing” to bring a lawsuit. Among other elements, standing requires “an injury in fact.”

 

In this case, Van could not allege the improper sales tax itself was her injury-in-fact, as she’d already received a full refund prior to filing her lawsuit. So her claim to Article III standing rested on the fact “she did not receive interest” on that refund. But Holland believed that this was not good enough–i.e., $3.76 in interest was “too little to support Article III standing.”

9th district sealNinth Circuit Joins Sister Courts in Adopting “Lost Time Value of Money” Rule

Van appealed Holland’s ruling. And on June 24, 2020, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed Holland’s order dismissing the case. Without ruling on the merits of Van’s lawsuit, the Ninth Circuit said she had sufficiently pleaded an injury that met the requirements for Article III standing.

 

The unsigned opinion noted that Ninth Circuit law has previously established that even the loss of a “dollar or two” was enough to show an injury-in-fact. In other words, there was no basis for Holland’s reasoning that $3.76 fell below some minimum-injury threshold. Indeed, even LuLaRoe did not bother to defend Holland’s reasoning on that point.

 

Nevertheless, LuLaRoe maintained that since it gave Van a full refund, she could not maintain standing based solely on interest–or her “lost time value of money,” as it were. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, noting that several of its sister courts have already found that “the temporary loss of use of one’s money constitutes an injury in fact for purposes of Article III.” The Ninth Circuit said it found the reasoning of the other appeals courts persuasive and adopted the same standard here.

 

The Ninth Circuit further rejected LuLaRoe’s claim that Van had to “make specific allegations regarding how [she] would have earned interest on the money but for [LuLaRoe’s] wrongful conduct.” But as a matter of law, the issue was not whether or not Van would have received interest had she, say, put the improperly collected sales tax into a CD. Rather, the alleged injury was that she “lost the use of her money” during the period from when LuLaRoe improperly collected sales tax until the time it gave Van a refund. And while other appeals courts may have implied that a plaintiff must allege “specific plans to invest [their] money into an interest-bearing asset” to establish Article III standing, the Ninth Circuit expressly declined to adopt that rule here.

 

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April 01 date

April 2019 Sales & Use Tax Rate Changes

Must Be Spring Fever – Many Sales Tax Changes effective April 1st.

 

ALASKA

The State of Alaska does not levy a sales tax; however, several municipal governments do.  Here are the local changes effective April 1st.

  • Seldovia on Kenai Peninsula
  • Sitka in Sitka County
  • Dyea in Skagway Hoonah Angoon County
  • Skagway in Skagway Hoonah Angoon County
  • Whittier in Valdez Cordova

ALABAMA

  • Evergreen in Conecuh County
  • Florence in Lauderdale County

ARKANSAS

April 1st rate changes in the cities of:

  • Gentry
  • Hector
  • Redfield
  • Wabbaseka
  • Prairie Grove
  • Scranton
  • Waldenburg
  • Wilmot

April 1st rate changes in the counties of:

  • Saline County
  • Sharp County
  • Fulton County
  • Grant County

CALIFORNIA Read more

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Sales tax change frequency by state

Zip2Tax compares the sales tax change frequency of the states. Ever wonder how your state measures up?

It’s generally accepted that there are around 11,000 sales tax jurisdictions across this great and diverse country of ours. This fact alone would seem to be a fairly reasonable argument for the outsourcing of sales and use tax rates from a company such as Zip2Tax. As the head of marketing for Zip2Tax I am always trying to understand our customer’s needs better. I found myself wondering about the sales tax change frequency for all these jurisdictions. I mean, 11,000 rows in a document might be manageable if they only changed their rates every few years or so, right?

So I sat down and with my trusty Excel spread sheet and a large cup of strong coffee and started going back through our research documentation counting the number of months that there had been any sales tax changes in each state. I wanted to determine which states had the highest sales tax change frequency. I sampled a three-year period from December 2015 going back through January 2013.

… fully one-third of the time that these states CAN make sales or use tax rate changes, they DO.

When the numbers were crunched I had some surprises in store, to be sure. For one, the states that provide Zip2Tax with the most new customers have no obvious correlation with which states had the highest sales tax change frequency. In fact, California and New York were only slightly above average.

The standout in this sample was Alabama which turned out to be far and away the leader with changes in 30 out of the 36 months – that’s 83% of the time. This also helped to dash my hopes of discovering a hotbed of customer need for our product since Alabama has so far not proven to be a great source of new business.
sales tax change frequency

Arizona came in second with 14 changes over that same period. Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas all tie for third place with 13 sales tax rate changes over 36 months. That translates to mean that fully one-third of the time that these states CAN make sales or use tax rate changes, they DO. Not to overstate the obvious, but that is more frequently than quarterly updates.

… more than two-thirds, updated that tax a minimum of once a year, and by the end of 3 years, 86% of the states had made changes…

In fact, 68% of the states that collect a sales tax, that’s more than two-thirds, updated that tax a minimum of once a year, and by the end of 3 years, 86% of the states had made changes.

So as I drained the last of my cold coffee I felt some gratification in that even though sales tax will remain an extremely complex moving target in nearly all 50 states, at least it should mean a steady supply of customers for sales tax rate providers like Zip2Tax for the foreseeable future.

Fill in the sign up form below this blog to receive our monthly newsletter and get alerted when one of these states makes a sales or use tax change or other important tax-related information.

 

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Sales and use tax changes for October 2015

Sales and use tax changes for October 2015

Sales and use tax rates have changed in 16 states in Zip2Tax products since September 2015.

In Alaska, tax rates changed for Sitka, Skagway, Seldovia and Whittier.

In Alabama, tax rates changed for Tallapoosa County, Grove Hill, Fayette, Evergreen and Dodge City.

In Arkansas, tax rates changed for Brinkley, El Dorado, and Western Grove.

In California, tax rates changed for Greenbrae and Monterey.

In Kansas, tax rates changed for Andover, Belleville, Buhler, Cherryvale, Eudora, Haven, LaCrosse, Lecompton, Meriden and Bourbon County.

In Louisiana, tax rates changed for Folsom.

In Minnesota, tax rates changed for Lyon and Scott Counties.

In Missouri, tax rates changed for Dent County, Salem, Henry County, Laclede County, New Madrid County, Sedalia, Bertrand, Bethany, Concordia, Country Club Hills, Crystal City, Fair Play, Galena, Hazelwood, Kirkwood, Miner, Rolla, St. John, Stanberry and Tipton.

In North Dakota, tax rates changed for Mandan.

In Nebraska, tax rates changed for Lincoln and Chadron.

In Ohio, tax rates changed for Lake County.

In Texas, tax rates changed for Stowell, Winnie, Rocksprings, Ropesville, Stratford, Gustine, Combes, Deer Park, Granger, Lake Dallas, Panhandle, Santa Rosa, Sonora, Southlake, White Deer and Yorktown.

In Utah, tax rates changed for Murray and Logan.

In Vermont, tax rates changed for Colchester.

In Washington, tax rates changed for Tumwater TBD.

In Wyoming, tax rates changed for Weston County.

There were 25 states with ZIP code changes effective after September 2015 including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, DC, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.A PDF document enumerating ZIP code additions and deletions can be made available upon request.

For September’s changes click here.

Angel Downs, Zip2Tax's ead tax researcher

Angel Downs, Zip2Tax’s lead tax researcher

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Exemption certificates need to be reviewed for validity

Exemption certificates

Do you know the validity period of your exemption certificates? Did you know that each state treats them differently and that you should review them periodically to make sure they are still good?

It is a good business practice to periodically review exemption certificates because quite a few states claim their exemption certificates are good until the business has a change, the business closes, or the certificate is revoked. You won’t know if these conditions are met unless you check with your customers and vendors regularly and request updated exemption certificates from them.

Some states have no stated expiration for their exemption certificates but they recommend regular or periodic updates. In these cases we listed the least amount of time between recommended updates. In cases where the state listed “good until the exemption no longer applies” we stated that there was no expiration date. Other states note that exemption certificates are good forever however “exempt status must be renewed”, or they “recommend” updates. In these cases we noted the recommended update or renewal timeframe.

Exemption Certificate Validity

State Abbrev. Validity Period
Alabama AL Till Changed Or Revoked
Alaska AK NA – No Certificates
Arizona AZ Date On Certificate
Arkansas AR NA – No Certificates
California CA Till Changed Or Revoked
Colorado CO No Expiration
Connecticut CT 3 Years
Delaware DE NA – No Certificates
District Of Columbia DC Till Changed Or Revoked
>Florida FL 5 Years
Georgia GA Till Changed Or Revoked
Hawaii HI Till Changed Or Revoked
Idaho ID No Expiration
Illinois IL 5 Years
Indiana IN No Expiration
Iowa IA 5 Years
Kansas KS Till Changed Or Revoked
Kentucky KY Till Changed Or Revoked
Louisiana LA 3 Years
Maine ME Till Changed Or Revoked
Maryland MD 5 Years
Massachusetts MA No Expiration
Michigan MI 4 Years
Minnesota MN 3 Years
Mississippi MS NA – No Certificates
Missouri MO 5 Years
Montana MT NA – No Certificates
Nebraska NE No Expiration
Nevada NV 5 Years
New Hampshire NH NA – No Certificates
New Jersey NJ 5 Years
New Mexico NM No Expiration
New York NY Till Changed Or Revoked
North Carolina NC No Expiration
North Dakota ND No Expiration
Ohio OH No Expiration
Oklahoma OK 3 Years
Oregon OR NA – No Certificates
Pennsylvania PA 3 Years
Rhode Island RI No Expiration
South Carolina SC Till Changed Or Revoked
South Dakota SD 1 Year
Tennessee TN Till Changed Or Revoked
Texas TX No Expiration
Utah UT 1 Year
Vermont VT No Expiration
Virginia VA Till Changed Or Revoked
Washington WA 1 Year
West Virginia WV 1 Year
Wisconsin WI 5 Years
Wyoming WY No Expiration
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