Sales Tax on Online Purchases Is On the Rise

This holiday season, online shoppers will find more states are looking to make sure gift givers also give their state its fair share – in terms of sales tax for online purchases, according to CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business and a global provider of tax, accounting and audit information, software, and services. Last year, online shoppers spent more than $1 billion just on Cyber Monday, and online shopping this holiday season is expected to continue to grow at a double-digit rate.
 
“Whether people shop online or in stores, states expect them to pay sales tax on their purchases,” said Daniel Schibley, JD, CCH senior state tax analyst. “However, few online shoppers comply, unless the tax is collected by the merchant.”
 
Under existing laws, retailers are required to collect sales taxes for purchases made in states in which they have a physical presence, or nexus. As more sales head online, it is projected that states are losing billions of dollars annually in sales tax revenue they once collected from local retailers, and they are increasingly looking for ways to shore up their tax base.
 
Two ways to do this, according to CCH, are to require more online retailers to collect sales tax through broader nexus rules and to require consumers to pay the required use tax portion of sales tax. Sales tax has two parts – the sales portion paid by the retailer and the use portion paid by the consumer. Under existing rules, individuals are required to pay use tax in states with a sales tax if the retailer does not collect the tax.
 
State Sales Tax Collection Approaches
 
Overall, 45 states currently have a sales tax. This includes every state with the exception of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon. The District of Columbia also imposes a sales tax.
 
Several states also are more aggressively enacting rules to help ensure more retailers and consumers pay sales tax, as outlined below. For a chart of state sales tax activities, click here.
 
Eleven states have enacted broader nexus rules that require online retailers to collect sales and use tax even if the retailer does not have a physical presence in the state but does solicit sales through online links or pays commissions to an in-state business (known as click-through nexus); or if the retailer has an affiliation with a company doing business in the state (known as affiliate-nexus laws).  These states include: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas and Vermont. The California, Texas and Vermont provisions are not yet in force, however. Four other states have legislation for these rules pending: Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
 
“Each of these laws increase the likelihood that if you live in these states, some online retailers will be charging you sales taxes when you make online purchases,” said Schibley.
 
Additionally, Colorado law requires retailers selling into the state but not collecting sales tax to send the state an annual reporting notification statement of everyone in the state it shipped to and the value of those purchases so that it can pursue collection of use taxes. However, a federal court in Denver has put enforcement of this law on hold for now.
 
Several states also require online retailers to provide explicit notifications on their websites letting consumers know about their obligation to pay their state sales tax. States with these website notification rules include Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Vermont.
 
States collecting sales tax also have information on their websites about how to pay uncollected use tax. Many states provide a line item on their income tax return where consumers can report the amount of use tax they owe.

 

You may like these other stories...

IRS chief: New rule on the way for tax-exempt groupsIRS Commissioner John Koskinen told the USA Today on Monday that the agency will likely rewrite a proposed rule regulating the political activities of nonprofit groups to...
With tomorrow being Tax Day, you might see some procrastinators at your office filling out forms, printing out paperwork, or getting last-minute tax advice from their accountant so they can meet the IRS’s filing...
The IRS has launched 295 new identity theft and refund fraud investigations during this tax-filing season, bringing the number of active cases to nearly 1,900, the agency announced last week.The coast-to-coast enforcement...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Apr 17
In this exciting presentation Excel expert David H. Ringstrom, CPA shares tricks that you can use with pivot tables every day. Remember, either you work Excel, or it works you!
Apr 22
Is everyone at your organization meeting your client service expectations? Let client service expert, Kristen Rampe, CPA help you establish a reputation of top-tier service in every facet of your firm during this one hour webinar.
Apr 24
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA introduces you to a powerful but underutilized macro feature in Excel.
Apr 25
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations' revenues. It will include discussions of revenue recognition for cash and non-cash contributions as well as other revenues commonly received by non-profit organizations.