Learning About Online Sales Tax

The internet has opened up new opportunities for many people. It is a vast marketplace that can be a goldmine for enterprising and smart business people. The numbers are very promising.

In 2017, e-commerce was responsible for around $2.3 trillion in sales and is expected to hit $4.5 trillion by 2025. In the US alone, e-commerce represents almost 10% of retail sales and that number is expected to grow by nearly 15% each year.

It is tempting to want to jump into this very lucrative market, but how do you begin?

What is E-commerce?

E-commerce simply refers to the buying and selling of goods and services on the internet and the data transactions that constitute payment. Brick and mortar stores are no longer the go-to for shopping as more people are going online for their retail needs.

How much money is in E-commerce?

Online shopping has been around for over 25 years and is expected to grow into a 4 trillion dollar industry. It is by far the fastest-growing retail market.

How Do I Know If I Need To Pay Sales Tax In A Given State?

To establish whether or not a state can impose a sales tax upon your business there first needs to be nexus. Nexus relating to state sales tax is established by a connection between the state and your business. How this connection is defined has been subject to fairly recent changes that reflect changes in the way business is conducted in modern times.

Traditionally, the nexus has been established by the business having a physical presence in the state. However, due to the explosion of e-commerce, physical presence within a state is no longer a requirement for sales tax nexus. In the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, the courts eliminated physical presence as the major requirement for creating nexus. It still should be noted that physical presence is considered an important requirement to allow a state to collect sales tax and is still one of the first considerations for sales tax.

What Are The Different Methods In Which The States Establish Sales Tax Nexus?

The definition of sales nexus can vary greatly from state to state. Here is a list of the different ways in which states can determine sales tax nexus:

  • Click-Through Nexus legislation
  • Affiliate Nexus legislation
  • Marketplace Nexus legislation
  • Notice and Reporting Requirements
  • Economic Nexus 

Click-Through Nexus legislation- This usually requires a remote seller to meet a minimum sales requirement in the state resulting from an in-state referral agent who is a resident of the state. The agent must be making commission payments to the referral agent for any sales that are the result of the click-through referrals from the agent’s website. 

Affiliate Nexus legislation– A remote retailer holds a substantial interest or is owned by a retailer that is located within the state and sells a similar type of product under a similar business name. Instate retailers can also be used to promote or market the product to in-state customers. Affiliate nexus does not require common ownership and may not include services such as sales and delivery.

Marketplace Nexus legislation– This definition applies to marketplace facilitators who operate a business in the state and provides e-commerce infrastructure, customer service, payment processing, and marketing services to individual sellers. The facilitator is the one that is required to register with the state and collect the sales tax rather than the individual sellers.

Notice and Reporting Requirements– This legislation requires that a retailer does not collect the state sales tax themselves but notify their buyers that they must report state use tax on all their purchases. The retailer might be required to send the purchaser a statement of all their purchases.

Economic Nexus– An out-of-state retailer generally is required to collect and remit sales tax once the retailer meets a set level of sales transactions or gross receipts activity (a threshold) within the state. No physical presence is required.

To find out more about state sales tax please visit the sales tax institute.

What Is A Tax Resale Certificate

A tax retail certificate allows you not to pay sales tax on items that you plan to resell. This can also apply to supplies that are going to be used in products that you will resell.

What Is Sales Tax Nexus?

Nexus is defined as having a presence or a significant connection to a state. Your sales tax obligations as an online store owner vary. Most of the time, however, a mere economic connection to a state is enough to create nexus.

State connections include:

  • Having offices in the state
  • Warehouses and distributors located in the state  
  • Employees
  • Affiliates located in the state
  • Making a certain amount of money or transactions in a state 
  • Doing physical business in a state for some time 

The Various State Tax Laws Can Be Confusing

Dropshippers must understand that each state has its unique tax laws related to retail sales tax that are constantly changing. There are many different definitions of what is nexus and what manner of tax resale certificates are acceptable. Some states accept resale documentation from other states, while many do not.

Third-party fulfillment companies make this even more difficult to comprehend.  A large company like Amazon can have one shipment travel through a dozen states, which can often trigger nexus.

Do Not Be Caught Unaware

Many dropshipping third-party suppliers are being unpleasantly surprised by large fines and hefty audits. This has made them require retailers to pay sales tax or be able to present valid tax resale certificates. However, the type of documentation required for each state can vary greatly.

Do Not Get Frustrated.

We understand that this is a whirlwind of information that can be very frustrating. There are great differences between states and you do not have the time to sort this out and properly run your business. That is why TaxResaleCertificate should do all the hard work for you. We can make sure that you get all the advantages of a tax resale certificate without having to deal with the hassle of government red tape. Let us handle the hard stuff so you can proceed to run your business with confidence. Make sure you check out our second blog in this series so you can learn even more valuable information about tax resale certificates.