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U.S. Supreme Court

National Geographic Soc'y v. Board of Equal., 430 U.S. 551 (1977)

National Geographic Society v. California Board of Equalization

No. 75-1868

Argued February 23, 1977

Decided April 4, 1977

430 U.S. 551


Appellant Society, a nonprofit corporation with headquarters in the District of Columbia, which maintains two offices in California that solicit advertising for the Society's magazine but perform no activities related to the Society's mail-order business for the sale from the District of Columbia of maps, atlases, globes, and books, challenges the constitutionality of California's use tax, as applied to the Society's mail-order activities, which requires every retailer engaged in business in that State and making sales of tangible personal property for storage, use, or other consumption in that State to collect from the purchaser a use tax in lieu of the sales tax imposed on local retailers. Orders for the Society's sales items are mailed from California directly to appellant's headquarters on coupons or forms enclosed with announcements mailed to Society members and magazine subscribers or on order forms contained in the magazine.

Held: California's imposition of the use-tax-collection liability on the Society's mail-order operation does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Commerce Clause, since the Society's continuous presence in California in the two offices provides a sufficient nexus between the appellant and the State to justify imposition of the use tax collection liability as applied to appellant. The out-of-state seller appellant runs no risk of double taxation, as the consumer's identification as a resident of the taxing State is obvious, and appellant becomes liable for the tax only by failing or refusing to collect it from the resident consumer. Nor, contrary to appellant's contention, is it material that there is no relationship between the appellant's sales activity in California and the two advertising offices, for, without regard to the nature of the offices' activities, they had the advantage of the same municipal services as they would have had if their activities had included assistance to the mail-order operations. Pp. 430 U. S. 555-562.

16 Cal.3d 637, 547 P.2d 458, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., chanrobles.com-red

Page 430 U. S. 552

filed an opinion concurring in the result, p. 562. BURGER, C.J.,and REHNQUIST, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


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