Like every New Year, 2016 will bring many sales tax changes. Rates will decrease or increase, there’ll be new product taxability rules, exemptions will expire or take effect, and there will be reporting changes. The only thing certain when it comes to sales tax is that change happens. And if often happens without much warning.
Tag: sales tax
Life lessons. They’re never ending. There’s the stuff that you’d like to learn like paddle boarding, pasta rolling, conversational Spanish, and there’s the stuff that you have to learn, like web design, drywall hanging, and programming the DVR. We’re guessing sales tax falls into the latter category. Because, let’s face it, unless you’re a member of Mensa (or a masochist), sales tax is hard. And boring.
But now it doesn’t have to be. Avalara wrote the book on making sales tax easy. No seriously, we did. Okay, we had a little help on the “easy” part from the folks at For Dummies. Yes! That’s right; those massively popular bright yellow and black books that that offer useful instruction on, well, everything.
Marketplace selling can be a smart strategy for merchants who want to expand their business. But what if you don’t have the time, money or resources to fulfill more orders in-house? You could consider becoming part of an order management and fulfillment network such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
For many companies selling online, figuring out where to collect and remit sales tax requires the expertise and bandwidth of the Amazon legal department. Given that most companies don’t have access to those kinds of resources, this quick list will help determine whether you’re overlooking sales tax obligations.
1. Drop shipping
In some states, use of an in-state third-party shipper by an out of state retailer can trigger a sales tax obligation. In California, New York, Texas, and Florida for example, if a drop shipper delivers goods on your behalf, you could be obligated to collect tax.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: A large percentage of businesses in the United States have rate tables in their ERP system with rates based on ZIP codes. In fact, you might be one of them. Unfortunately, this method can give you inaccurate rates, landing you in trouble with customers and taxing authorities. Here’s why:
The U.S. Postal Service developed Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) codes in the 1960s, so mail could be delivered more efficiently. What many people don’t know is that these “zones” can not only overlap each other, they can be adjusted and, sometimes, they might not represent a geographic region at all. In any given year, the USPS makes numerous boundary changes to ZIP code areas, making them an unstable data source. Most importantly, tax jurisdictions do NOT correspond with ZIP code regions. That means basing sales tax rates on a ZIP code risks applying not only an incorrect sales tax rate, but remitting it to the incorrect jurisdiction.
How much does your accountant know about sales tax? Maybe not as much as you think. A startling number of accounting professionals botched basic questions about sales tax, from online tax to nexus to audit risk (according to a recent Wakefield survey*).