A second legal skirmish has resulted from North Carolina's efforts to collect taxes from online sales.
A half-dozen online travel companies filed a lawsuit last week alleging that recent amendments to the state's sales tax law are unconstitutional and violate the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
The amendments, which went into effect Jan. 1, require that fees paid to third-party intermediaries, such as Orbitz, be included in the gross receipts of hotel operators that are subject to sales and hotel room taxes.
Online travel sites argue that the changes amount to a discriminatory tax because they impose an additional cost on online transactions compared to those that offer similar services offline.
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The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court by Orbitz, Trip Network Inc., Travelocity.com, Travelscape, Hotels.com and Hotwire. Named defendants are David Hoyle, the state's secretary of revenue, the Department of Revenue and Durham County, which levies a room tax and does not provide administrative remedies to dispute such taxes.
Lawyers with the state's Department of Justice are reviewing the complaint, spokeswoman Noelle Talley said Tuesday.
The lawsuit says the recent amendments to the sales tax law violate both the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution and the uniformity clause in the N.C. Constitution.
Travelocity and Expedia, which also owns Hotwire and Hotels.com, declined to comment on the suit or to say whether they are paying the tax.
Travelocity referred questions to the Interactive Travel Services Association, a trade group that represents all the plaintiffs. The association said it couldn't speak to what individual companies are doing.
The changes, enacted by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bev Perdue on June 30, are part of a broader effort by North Carolina to collect taxes from online retailers.
Since 2009, the state's Revenue Department has been seeking customer information from Amazon.com so that it could levy state sales tax on the retailer's customers.
A half-dozen North Carolina residents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, asked a court in Seattle to protect their identities.
Last month, a federal judge formalized an October ruling against the state, saying that turning over customer names violates a key free-speech tenet. The state has not yet decided whether to appeal.