Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 5 (1992)

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Opinion of the Court

or overrule Bellas Hess. While we agree with much of the state court's reasoning, we take the former course.


Quill is a Delaware corporation with offices and warehouses in Illinois, California, and Georgia. None of its employees work or reside in North Dakota, and its ownership of tangible property in that State is either insignificant or nonexistent.1 Quill sells office equipment and supplies; it solicits business through catalogs and flyers, advertisements in national periodicals, and telephone calls. Its annual national sales exceed $200 million, of which almost $1 million are made to about 3,000 customers in North Dakota. It is the sixth largest vendor of office supplies in the State. It delivers all of its merchandise to its North Dakota customers by mail or common carrier from out-of-state locations.

As a corollary to its sales tax, North Dakota imposes a use tax upon property purchased for storage, use, or consumption within the State. North Dakota requires every "retailer maintaining a place of business in" the State to collect the tax from the consumer and remit it to the State. N. D. Cent. Code 57-40.2-07 (Supp. 1991). In 1987, North Dakota amended the statutory definition of the term "retailer" to include "every person who engages in regular or system-1 In the trial court, the State argued that because Quill gave its customers an unconditional 90-day guarantee, it retained title to the merchandise during the 90-day period after delivery. The trial court held, however, that title passed to the purchaser when the merchandise was received. See App. to Pet. for Cert. A40-A41. The State Supreme Court assumed for the purposes of its decision that that ruling was correct. 470 N. W. 2d 203, 217, n. 13 (1991). The State Supreme Court also noted that Quill licensed a computer software program to some of its North Dakota customers that enabled them to check Quill's current inventories and prices and to place orders directly. Id., at 216-217. As we shall explain, Quill's interests in the licensed software does not affect our analysis of the due process issue and does not comprise the "substantial nexus" required by the Commerce Clause. See n. 8, infra.

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