Law 360 Turns to Bill Nelson for Insights on Longstanding Amazon v. SCDOR Dispute

Law360 Tax Authority

Law360’s Tax Authority quoted Bill Nelson in a story about the long-standing legal dispute between e-commerce giant Amazon and the South Carolina Department of Revenue that may resolve crucial issues regarding retroactivity, statutory interpretation and the definition of "seller" if the state's Supreme Court reviews the case.

This case revolves around whether Amazon, which had responded to state incentives to build a distribution center in South Carolina, should have collected and remitted sales tax on marketplace sales in 2016, years before the United States Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 Wayfair decision and the subsequent 2019 enactment of South Carolina’s marketplace facilitator law. The state argues Amazon owes $12.5 million in taxes for that period, a claim upheld by the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Amazon lost the case at the South Carolina Court of Appeals but has petitioned the state Supreme Court for discretionary review. Several national taxpayer groups and prominent academics have filed briefs in support of the petition.

Bill told Law360 that the tax agency took its position by looking backward on an audit and trying to make a situation that existed in 2016 fit one that was created in 2019 when South Carolina established its marketplace facilitator law.

"Prudent tax policy provides advance notice before doubtful statutory provisions are applied to novel circumstances. With advance warning, taxpayers are typically happy to comply," Bill said. "The DOR ignores the larger aims of good tax administration when it retroactively presses a maximalist interpretation of the statutory language on taxpayers who have only done what the Legislature asked."

Bill focuses his practices on issues such as transactional tax planning, tax controversies and litigation, dealing with state and federal tax authorities as administrative agencies and representing taxpayers before the North Carolina General Assembly. He has written and spoken on a variety of federal and state tax topics and has been active in a number of state tax and business law legislative reform efforts.

The entire story can be viewed here.


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