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The PACT Act as Indicium of the Due Process Validity of the Marketplace Fairness Act

Eric S. Smith

Abstract


If passed into law, the Marketplace Fairness Act would impose a federal duty on out-of-state sellers to collect a state-defined and state-benefitting use tax. This unique exercise of federal power implicates due process. The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 (PACT Act) represents the only other instance in which Congress has similarly compelled state law compliance. Two circuit courts of appeals have found the PACT Act vulnerable on concerns of due process. This Article relies on the PACT Act analogue to simulate how the Marketplace Fairness Act would fare under similar scrutiny. To this end and in this uncommon context, two novel constitutional questions are considered: (1) with which sovereign, the federal government or the state, are minimum contacts measured; and (2) if measured with the state, is a single sale sufficient to meet due process thresholds?

On balance, the courts and the literature suggest that minimum contacts should be measured between the out-ofstate seller and the state exacting sales tax collection responsibilities. If this is true, the Marketplace Fairness Act may violate the Due Process Clause for lack of minimum contacts as it imposes a sales tax collection responsibility on out-of-state sellers with as little as a single in-state sale. A recommendation is offered by which Congress may preemptively alleviate concerns related to the magnitude of minimum contacts.


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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the University of Florida Levin College of Law.