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  • Writer's pictureChristina Clark, M.S., EA

Do I Need to Pay Sales Tax for My Business?

Your probably curious and wondering; do I need to pay sales tax for my business? If you own a business that sales products then you will need to pay sales tax to the state, where the sales took place or where the sale of the product was shipped or delivered. If you sale products in a brick a mortar shop, like a coffee shop or restaurant then you will pay sales tax. If you sale products online using Shopify then you will pay sales tax. If you sale products at a expo, farmers market, outdoor markets, or at fairs then you will pay sales tax.

You can only be certain if your business is required to pay sales tax with the following steps. First go to the website of your business state Tax & Finance Department or Revenue Office.

Second you want to read and make sure the product that you sale is regulated by that state sales tax law. You also want to write down the sales tax rate for the state, sales tax of city, and even sales tax of the jursicdiction if it applies. The total sales tax rate could include a combination of state, county, city, and district tax rates. Knowing these sales tax percentages is one of the most important factors when knowing how much sales tax to charge your customer. An important thing to understand is after your customer pays for the product and sales tax charged on the invoice or receipt. You as the business owner have an important responsibilitiy to then set aside that sales tax that your customer paid, so that your business does not spend it on operating expenses. The amount that your customer paid in sales tax, is the exact amount of money that you must transfer to your business savings account. This is a best business practice that will ensure that you’re not spending the money that is meant to be remitted to the state when you file your sales tax return.

Third you want to verify if your sales state is a destination sales state or an origin sales state. Destination-sourced sales are taxed at the location where the buyer takes possession of the item sold. Origin-sourced sales are taxed where the seller is located. This is an important key in understanding how you should be tracking sales tax, calculating sales tax, charging sales tax, filing sales tax returns and paying sales tax. For New York, the point of delivery or the point at which possession is transferred by the seller to the purchaser determines the rate of tax to be collected. Which means that New York is a destination sales tax state. Remember that this may include a combination of state, county, city, district tax rates, and possibly an additional sales tax rate of 0.375% applies to taxable sales made within the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD).

Before you can file sales tax returns you need to set up a business account with the state tax department, or have your Private Business Accountant do this for you.

Fourth, you want to verify the filing and payment frequencies of your sales tax due. You need to make sure that you read the details and laws that govern your filing frequency because each state is different. Your filing frequency may be quarterly, semiannual, annual or monthly depending on the state law and guidelines. Knowing your filing frequency can prevent you from paying late filing fees and penalties. At the same moment when you file the sales tax return, you will also need to remit a sales tax payment to the state.

Now something you need to be super aware of is that your business is only forwarding(remitting) the sales tax you charged and collected from your customer to the state in the form of a sales tax payment. If your business collects the correct amount of sales tax from your customer, then you have the correct amount of money set aside to remit that same money to the state when your sales tax return is due. Many times with new businesses, the business owner is unaware that their business should be charging and collecting sales tax on invoices or sales receipts. When this happens a major financial dilemma occurs which forces and requires the business to remit sales tax payments to the state by using its own money, instead of using the customers money. And you do not want to do this. This is not good. When a business does not charge its customers or clients sales tax; this results in lower net profits and lower savings for that period. Essentially your business will lose money when it does not collect sales tax from customers and then turns around and pays out of pocket, the sales tax to the state from the business bank account.

Why does my business need to pay sales tax? It is important to meet your sales tax responsibilities so that you are not faced with late sales tax payment penalties and late sale tax filing fees. I have seen late payment and filing fees for as much as $12,000 dollars.

If you are like most business owners, who want to focus on the business and not on stuff like this; then you will need to get your Private Business Accountant to file your sales tax returns and remit payments. This will ensure you have less administrative burdens to manage and less tax compliance to think about. If you are a business owner who is struggling to understand your business sales tax situation, then you need to call me, Christina Clark, Federal Tax Accountant & Private Business Accountant, CLARK & CO Business Administration at 917-892-5872.


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