Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 6 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 298 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

atic solicitation of a consumer market in th[e] state." 57- 40.2-01(6). State regulations in turn define "regular or systematic solicitation" to mean three or more advertisements within a 12-month period. N. D. Admin. Code 81-04.1-01- 03.1 (1988). Thus, since 1987, mail-order companies that engage in such solicitation have been subject to the tax even if they maintain no property or personnel in North Dakota.

Quill has taken the position that North Dakota does not have the power to compel it to collect a use tax from its North Dakota customers. Consequently, the State, through its Tax Commissioner, filed this action to require Quill to pay taxes (as well as interest and penalties) on all such sales made after July 1, 1987. The trial court ruled in Quill's favor, finding the case indistinguishable from Bellas Hess; specifically, it found that because the State had not shown that it had spent tax revenues for the benefit of the mail-order business, there was no "nexus to allow the state to define retailer in the manner it chose." App. to Pet. for Cert. A41.

The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, concluding that "wholesale changes" in both the economy and the law made it inappropriate to follow Bellas Hess today. 470 N. W. 2d, at 213. The principal economic change noted by the court was the remarkable growth of the mail-order business "from a relatively inconsequential market niche" in 1967 to a "goliath" with annual sales that reached "the staggering figure of $183.3 billion in 1989." Id., at 208, 209. Moreover, the court observed, advances in computer technology greatly eased the burden of compliance with a " 'welter of complicated obligations' " imposed by state and local taxing authorities. Id., at 215 (quoting Bellas Hess, 386 U. S., at 759-760).

Equally important, in the court's view, were the changes in the "legal landscape." With respect to the Commerce Clause, the court emphasized that Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U. S. 274 (1977), rejected the line of cases holding that the direct taxation of interstate commerce was

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