ND v. Quill impact on Minot small businesses

MINOT, N.D. - The US Supreme Court has agreed to revisit a decades-old ruling on sales tax that impacts businesses in Minot and North Dakota as a whole.

The ruling in question is called Quill Corporation versus North Dakota.

The ruling stated that in order to collect sales tax, a business must have a physical presence in the state. In other words, a brick-and-mortar shop.

But the decision came down before online stores such as Amazon and Ebay took over the Internet, so those companies did not have to pay that tax.

It's put small business owners at a disadvantage.

Main Street Books owner Val Stadick has been in Minot for more than 20 years. A lot has changed in that time, including the evolution of online shopping. Stadick says a court ruling on sales tax in 1992 needs to change.

Stadick said, "I just feel it's ridiculous. I truly believe that we should have an even playing field when it comes to any kind of commerce. E-commerce, downtown commerce, we should all have the same benefits. That way we can, our customers can have all the same benefits and our community."

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., then the state Tax Commissioner, took Quill Corporation versus North Dakota to the US Supreme Court. Heitkamp said sales tax collection should include online sales, but the justices rules that only brick-and-mortar shops could collect the tax.

Twenty-five years later, Heitkamp is bringing the case back.

MainStream Boutique owner Pam Karpenko would also like to see the ruling overturned.

Karpenko states, "It will certainly level the playing field in terms of, if you spend $100 you're going to pay that extra $7.50 with me or anybody local. Now, to shop online and click that but you're also going to have to pay the same $7.50."

Stadick and Karpenko say that shopping local not only benefits the store, but the community as a whole.

"That you've shifted away from sending out-of-state somewhere into the Minot economy. Whether it's a locally owned small business but a business that is local here," Karpenko continues.

Current State Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger estimates North Dakota loses $45 million every biennium due to the Quill versus North Dakota ruling.

Lawyers say a ruling on the case will likely come down in April or May.

It's unclear at this time how it will impact local commerce.