Sales Tax Exceptionalism

Haile, Andrew J.

There is something different about the state sales tax, or so it seems based on judicial decisions creating unique jurisdictional and apportionment standards for the tax. This article explores the concept of "sales tax exceptionalism," and assesses whether the special treatment afforded to the sales tax is justified by the theoretical foundations of the tax. In particular, the article examines whether theoretical justifications exist for the jurisdictional standard applied to the sales tax (a "physical presence" standard) as compared to the "economic presence" standard applied to the corporate income tax. Ultimately, the article concludes that only weak theoretical justifications support the different jurisdictional standards, and that recent changes to many states’ corporate income taxes further undercut the notion of "sales tax exceptionalism."


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Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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September 29, 2015