Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 26 (1992)

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

Opinion of White, J.

man and its progeny" in our decision in Complete Auto. See ante, at 311. I am unpersuaded by this attempt to distinguish Bellas Hess from Freeman and Spector, both of which were repudiated by this Court. See Complete Auto, supra, at 288-289, and n. 15. What we disavowed in Complete Auto was not just the "formal distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' taxes on interstate commerce," ante, at 310, but also the whole notion underlying the Bellas Hess physical-presence rule—that "interstate commerce is immune from state taxation," Complete Auto, supra, at 288.

The Court compounds its misreading by attempting to show that Bellas Hess "is not inconsistent with Complete Auto and our recent cases." Ante, at 311. This will be news to commentators, who have rightly criticized Bellas Hess.1 Indeed, the majority displays no small amount of audacity in claiming that our decision in National Geographic Society v. California Bd. of Equalization, 430 U. S. 551, 559 (1977), which was rendered several weeks after Complete Auto, reaffirmed the continuing vitality of Bellas Hess. See ante, at 311.

Our decision in that case did just the opposite. National Geographic held that the National Geographic Society was liable for use tax collection responsibilities in California. The Society conducted an out-of-state mail-order business similar to the one at issue here and in Bellas Hess, and in addition, maintained two small offices in California that solicited advertisements for National Geographic Magazine. The Society argued that its physical presence in California was unrelated to its mail-order sales, and thus that the Bel-1 See, e. g., P. Hartman, Federal Limitations on State and Local Taxation 10.8 (1981); Hartman, Collection of Use Tax on Out-of-State Mail-Order Sales, 39 Vand. L. Rev. 993, 1006-1015 (1986); Hellerstein, Significant Sales and Use Tax Developments During the Past Half Century, 39 Vand. L. Rev. 961, 984-985 (1986); McCray, Overturning Bellas Hess: Due Process Considerations, 1985 B. Y. U. L. Rev. 265, 288-290; Rothfeld, Mail Order Sales and State Jurisdiction to Tax, 53 Tax Notes 1405, 1414-1418 (1991).


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