Archibald Cox, Washington, D.C., for appellant.
Terence F. MacCarthy, Chicago, Ill., for appellee.
Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellant, National Bellas Hess, is a mail order house with its principal place of business in North Kansas [386 U.S. 753, 754] City, Missouri. It is licensed to do business in only that State and in Delaware, where it is incorporated. Although the company has neither outlets nor sales representatives in Illinois, the appellee, Department of Revenue, obtained a judgment from the Illinois Supreme Court that National is required to collect and pay to the State the use taxes imposed by Ill. Rev.Stat. c. 120, 439.3 (1965).1 Since National's constitutional objections to the imposition of this liability present a substantial federal question, we noted probable jurisdiction of its appeal. 2
The facts bearing upon National's relationship with Illinois are accurately set forth in the opinion of the State Supreme Court:
All of the contacts which National does have with the State are via the United States mail or common carrier. Twice a year catalogues are mailed to the company's active or recent customers throughout the Nation, including Illinois. This mailing is supplemented by advertising 'flyers' which are occasionally mailed to past and potential customers. Ordersfo r merchandise are mailed by the [386 U.S. 753, 755] customers to National and are accepted at its Missouri plant. The ordered goods are then sent to the customers either by mail or by common carrier.
This manner of doing business is sufficient under the Illinois statute to classify National as a '(r)etailer maintaining a place of business in this State,' since that term includes any retailer:
Accordingly, the statute requires National to collect and pay to the appellee Department the tax imposed by Illinois upon consumers who purchase the company's goods for use within the State. 4 When collecting this tax, National must give the Illinois purchaser 'a receipt therefor in the manner and form prescribed by the (appellee),' if one is demanded. 5 It must also 'keep such records, receipts, invoices and other pertinent books, documents, memoranda and papers as the (appellee) shall require, in such form as the (appellee) shall require,' and must submit to such investigations, hearings, and examinations as are needed by the appellee to administer and enforce the use tax law. 6 Failure to keep such records or to give required receipts is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to six months. 7 Finally, to allow service of process on an out-of-state company like National, the statute designates the Illinois Secretary of State as National's appointed agent, and jurisdiction in tax collection suits attaches [386 U.S. 753, 756] when process is served on him and the company is notified by registered mail.