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it is a duty that must be paid to import something

Or it's a (sales) tax on a purchase made from within the State charging the tax, just like it charges on any other purchase. Since the State isn't charging more than the difference between its own sales tax and the sales tax charged by the State from which the purchased item is sold, you really will have a hard time convincing the court it's a duty and not a sales tax.

And there's the added complication that States are allowed to charge explicit duties on other States' exports or on imports into the charging State, so long as the duty is used exclusively to satisfy the importing State's inspection requirements (see, for instance California and plant inspections), with any "profit" on the duty turned over to the Federal Treasury. Good luck here, too, in the accounting contest to show a State is over charging its Duty and not turning over the excess.

Eric Hines
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