Oops: Do You Owe Sales Tax and Not Realize It?

One of the side effects of our last economic slowdown was in state  government budgets; states are estimating $25.8 Billion in uncollected sales tax and have made deep cuts to higher education to fill the budget gaps. New Hampshire has cut its higher education funding by 36.6% making it the 7th highest in the nation. Many states are finding additional revenue by cracking down on sales tax collections. Please don’t believe that just because you’re in New Hampshire that you’re exempt from sales tax.

The Hot Buzzword: Nexus. 

Nexus means a connection, link or tie that a business has with a state, and it has to do with a form of presence. If you have presence, the state has jurisdiction to collect sales tax. In the sales tax world, you owe sales tax to a state if you have nexus in that state and you are selling taxable items. The scary part for small businesses is what makes up nexus.

A Small World
Globalization and technology together have produced dramatic shifts in the way businesses can look today. Not only can we access a pool of local talent to staff and grow our businesses, we can employ almost anyone around the world to work for us. Hiring employees or contractors located in other states can stretch our nexus to include that state.

As an example, if your company is located in New Hampshire and you hire an employee who works from her home in Florida, you might have nexus in Florida and New Hampshire, and you might owe sales tax in Florida (you could owe in both states if New Hampshire had a sales tax). Sales tax nexus is not the same as state income tax nexus, but the presence of a worker in another state is a possible trigger for sales tax nexus.

Taxable in One State, Not in Another

The taxability of services has grown rapidly as states look to balance their budgets after Federal cuts and other shortfalls. Not all services are taxed equally across states. For example, web design services are taxable in Texas, but not California. Accounting services are taxable in Hawaii and South Dakota.Some states have smaller jurisdictions such as counties and municipalities, making for over 11,000 jurisdictions in the U.S., not just 50. Alabama, Colorado and Arizona, for example, have statewide rules as well as taxability rules for localities within the states.

NOMAD

There are only five (5) states that currently have no sales tax; New Hampshire, Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Delaware. Again, this does not mean that if you’re business is located in one of these states, that you will not have to pay sales tax. It just means that these states do not colllect a sales tax. There may be other taxes; e.g. Meals and Rentals taxes, etc.

Innocuous Survey Can Trigger Audit

You might receive a form that looks like a survey and asks innocent-looking questions such as how many employees do you have and what state do they work in and where do they live. The surveys don’t look like they are from a state government but they might be. It’s their way of getting you to admit nexus. Please do not let just anyone fill these out; it could expose you to a huge liability. Hint: If you receive a nexus questionnaire, the requesting agency already suspects an issue.

Minimizing Sales Tax Audit Risk

A sales tax audit could expose you to an average of 6% of customer revenues back seven to ten years plus up to 60% in penalties and interest.

Because of the high dollar impact on the profitability of your business, it’s best to get a sales tax professional involved in helping you determine the taxability of your items as well as interpreting nexus. Many states are hiring auditors, sharing information and aggressively pursuing businesses, so due diligence in this area is prudent.

Sales Tax Tools Are Available

There are tools that integrate with QuickBooks and other small business  software products, including online shopping carts. These tools will help you to calculate the taxes and file the required state sales tax forms.

Marketplace Fairness Act

The Marketplace Fairness Act, which is slated to tax internet sales for companies with revenues in excess of $1 million, even in New Hampshire, has passed the Senate and will be voted on in the House shortly. This will change everything.

If we can help in any way, please reach out and let us know.

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