Sales Tax Nexus: Understanding its Impact on Your Business


Sales tax nexus refers to the specific connections or links that a business establishes with a particular jurisdiction, requiring it to register and collect sales tax in that area. Nexus requirements help ensure that businesses operating across state lines contribute to the local tax base where their customers reside. With the rise of e-commerce and remote sellers, the concept of nexus has evolved, and businesses need to be aware of the varying state-specific nexus regulations.

Understanding sales tax nexus involves recognizing the various triggers, such as physical presence or reaching certain sales thresholds, which may render a business obligated to pay sales tax in a specific state. The obligations differ from state to state, and it is crucial for businesses to be aware and compliant with these regulations. The 2018 South Dakota v. Wayfair decision has brought significant changes to economic nexus requirements, affecting remote out-of-state sellers and demanding attention to the compliance nuances.

Key Takeaways

  • Sales tax nexus requires businesses to register and collect sales tax in jurisdictions where they have significant connections.
  • Nexus triggers vary from state to state and can be based on physical presence or sales thresholds.
  • Businesses ought to be aware of state-specific regulations and compliance requirements, particularly after the 2018 South Dakota v. Wayfair decision, which impacts out-of-state sellers.

Understanding Sales Tax Nexus

Definitions and Concepts

Sales tax nexus is the connection between a business and a state’s taxing jurisdiction, determining whether the business must collect sales tax from customers in that state. This concept has been made increasingly complicated with online sales and the growth of remote sellers. There are two main types of sales tax nexus: physical presence nexus and economic nexus.

Physical Presence Nexus

Physical presence nexus is the traditional concept of nexus, which is based on the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, where it was established that a business must have a substantial physical presence in a state for the state to impose sales tax collection requirements. Physical presence can be:

  • An office, warehouse, or store
  • An employee, agent, or representative
  • Inventory stored in a state, even if it’s stored in a third-party warehouse

Example: If a business operates a store in State A and ships products to customers in State B, it has a physical presence nexus in State A but not in State B. Therefore, it is required to collect sales tax in State A but not in State B.

Economic Nexus

Economic nexus is a more recent concept that has emerged in response to the growth of online sales and the need for states to capture revenue from out-of-state sellers. The Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Wayfair established that a state can require a business to collect sales tax based on the volume of sales or the number of transactions in that state, even if the business does not have a physical presence there.

Each state has its own laws and thresholds for establishing economic nexus. For example:

State Sales Threshold Transaction Threshold
South Dakota $100,000 200
California $500,000 N/A
New York $500,000 100
Texas $500,000 N/A

In these cases, if a business exceeds the sales or transaction threshold in a state, it has established economic nexus there and must collect and remit sales tax for that state, regardless of whether it has a physical presence.

Businesses must understand the types of sales tax nexus and the specific requirements for each state in which they operate to ensure compliance and avoid potential financial penalties, reputational damage, or legal action.

Determining Nexus Obligations

Identifying Nexus in Different States

Sales tax nexus obligations vary for businesses operating in different states, so it’s essential to stay informed on each state’s specific rules and regulations governing nexus. When identifying nexus, consider factors like having an office, employee, warehouse, or inventory in a state. Additionally, affiliate or click-through nexus may come into play if a company works with affiliates or generates referrals from in-state websites.

For example, in New York, state sales tax is 4%, with local sales tax rates ranging from 3% to 4.875%. In Texas, the state sales tax is 6.25%, and local sales tax rates can vary from 0.5% to 2%.

Thresholds and Criteria for Nexus

To assess nexus obligations, businesses must consider the thresholds and criteria set by each state. These usually involve the number of transactions or the monetary value of sales into a state during a specific period.

An example of state-specific thresholds is:

State Transactions Sales Revenue
New York 100 sales $500,000
Texas 200 sales $400,000

Economic nexus thresholds, established in the Wayfair ruling, define when remote businesses with no physical presence create a sales tax nexus by selling into a state. For most states, an organization is considered to have economic nexus when its sales exceed the specified transactional or monetary thresholds.

By understanding the nexus rules and staying updated on state-specific changes, businesses can confidently navigate their sales tax nexus obligations.

Registration and Compliance

Remote Seller Registration Requirements

Remote sellers are required to register for sales tax once they meet a state’s economic nexus threshold. Economic nexus is established when a seller’s annual sales revenue and/or transaction quantity reaches a specific threshold set by the state1. This connection between a state and a business triggers registration and compliance obligations for the seller.

In the wake of the 2018 South Dakota v. Wayfair decision, every state with a sales tax has implemented economic nexus requirements for remote out-of-state sellers2. It is essential for remote sellers to stay aware of each state’s regulations so as to stay compliant.

Sales Tax Compliance Steps

Upon reaching the economic nexus threshold, remote sellers should take the following steps to ensure sales tax compliance:

  1. Register with the state tax authority: Register for a sales tax permit in each state where you have economic nexus.
  2. Determine applicable sales tax rate: Identify the appropriate sales tax rates for each jurisdiction where you are required to collect sales tax.
  3. Collect sales tax: Implement sales tax collection at the point of sale for transactions in states where you have economic nexus.
  4. Remit collected sales tax: Send the collected sales tax to the respective state tax authorities according to their specific remittance schedules.

By following these steps, remote sellers can maintain compliance with the various sales tax nexus standards across states.

Record-Keeping and Reporting

To maintain sales tax compliance, proper record-keeping and reporting is essential for remote sellers. Key aspects of record-keeping include:

  • Sales records: Maintain detailed records of sales transactions, including date, amount, and buyer’s location.
  • Tax collected: Keep accurate records of the sales tax collected from each transaction.
  • Exemption certificates: Collect and store any applicable sales tax exemption certificates from buyers.

States may require regular reporting of sales tax collected and remitted. Make sure to be familiar with each state’s specific reporting requirements and deadlines to avoid penalties or audit risks.

In summary, remote sellers need to be diligent in registering, collecting, and remitting sales tax, as well as maintaining accurate records to ensure compliance with economic nexus laws.

State-Specific Nexus Regulations

Variances in State Nexus Laws

Sales tax nexus regulations vary significantly from state to state. These variations occur in the threshold for sales, number of transactions, and types of activities that establish nexus. This often results in different obligations for remote sellers depending on the specific state in which they operate. It is important for businesses to understand and comply with the sales tax nexus laws in each state they conduct business.

  • Alaska has a threshold of $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions.
  • Arizona sets a threshold of $100,000 in sales.
  • Arkansas‘ nexus threshold is $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions.
  • California has a higher threshold of $500,000 in sales.
  • Colorado requires $100,000 in sales for establishing nexus.

While some states have complex nexus laws that include affiliate nexus, trade show presence, and other factors, other states like Delaware don’t have a state sales tax at all, eliminating the concern about nexus for remote sellers.

Examples: Nexus Laws in Major States

Below are a few examples of nexus laws in major states:

  1. Illinois: In Illinois, a remote seller establishes a nexus if they have an affiliate who promotes their business in the state, or participate in trade shows for over eight days per year. Additionally, a threshold of $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions apply.
  2. Florida: Florida’s nexus laws involve having a physical presence in the state, using Florida-based web-hosts, or utilizing affiliates that promote or facilitate sales within the state. There is no specific sales threshold implemented.
  3. Georgia: Georgia requires remote sellers to collect sales tax once they exceed a specified revenue threshold of $100,000 or 200 transactions.
  4. Idaho: In Idaho, a sales tax nexus is established when a business surpasses $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions.
  5. Kansas: Kansas imposes a sales tax nexus on remote sellers with a single transaction or $1 in sales, making it one of the strictest states in terms of nexus thresholds.
  6. Louisiana: Louisiana’s nexus laws require a seller to have at least $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions in a year.
  7. Missouri: Missouri’s sales tax nexus is triggered by having a physical presence in the state or employing facilitators that aid in sales, with no specific sales threshold in place.

Understanding individual state nexus laws is essential for compliance and avoiding penalties. As a result, remote sellers must be aware of the regulations in all states where they conduct business.

Special Nexus Considerations

In this section, we discuss specific nexus scenarios or rules that apply to certain types of businesses or sales arrangements. Two such concepts are Marketplace Facilitator Nexus and Affiliate and Click-Through Nexus.

Marketplace Facilitator Nexus

Marketplace facilitators such as Amazon play a pivotal role in connecting buyers and sellers on their platforms. Many states have introduced marketplace facilitator laws, which require the marketplace facilitator to collect and remit sales tax on behalf of the sellers they work with on the platform. This helps streamline sales tax collection and compliance for the remote retailers and the state.

States with marketplace facilitator laws typically:

  • Set a threshold for retail sales or the number of transactions
  • Require facilitators to collect tax once the threshold is exceeded
  • Oblige the marketplace to hold a valid sales tax permit

It is essential for both sellers and marketplace facilitators to understand and comply with these regulations.

Affiliate and Click-Through Nexus

Affiliate and click-through nexus are other notable considerations for businesses selling products or services through their affiliate networks. These types of nexus trigger sales tax obligations in certain states depending on the specific activities of the affiliate or sales representative.

Affiliate Nexus occurs when a business has a relationship with an in-state entity that helps promote or increase sales on its behalf. This could include referrals or promotional activities provided by the affiliate.

Click-Through Nexus, on the other hand, considers situations where an out-of-state seller enters into an agreement with a resident of the taxing state. The state resident, in turn, refers potential customers to the seller’s website through a referral link or a click-through link.

Some common factors to identify an affiliate or click-through nexus include:

  • Marketing through direct or indirect promotion
  • In-state solicitation by the affiliate
  • Performance-based compensation for the affiliate

Businesses engaging in these types of activities, such as affiliate marketing networks, must comply with the relevant nexus laws when carrying out their sales activities.

Impact of Legal Decisions

South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. Analysis

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. This ruling significantly altered the sales tax landscape, specifically regarding the concept of economic nexus, which is a vital aspect of the Commerce Clause. The decision departed from the physical presence (nexus) rule established in the 1992 case of Quill Corp. v. North Dakota.

The South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. case centered on the constitutionality of South Dakota’s economic nexus legislation, which obligated certain remote sellers to collect and remit sales tax, regardless of their physical presence in the state. The Court ultimately upheld South Dakota’s law and, in doing so, set the stage for other states to adopt similar economic nexus laws.

The impact of the decision can be observed in several key areas:

  1. States Adopting Economic Nexus Laws: As of January 1, 2023, all states with a sales tax have enacted economic nexus legislation, often following the model set forth by South Dakota’s law. This includes both dollar and transaction thresholds as criteria for establishing nexus.
  2. Changed Compliance Requirements for Online Sellers: Online sellers now must be aware of the varying sales and use tax laws in states where they sell products or services. Compliance with these laws is crucial for avoiding penalties and ensuring the proper collection and remittance of sales tax.
  3. Lack of Uniformity in Nexus Thresholds: Each state has the freedom to set its own economic nexus thresholds, and while many have followed South Dakota’s example, others have chosen different criteria. This can create a complex situation for businesses, as they must navigate the varying thresholds and exemptions across states.

In summary, the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. ruling by the United States Supreme Court has had a substantial and lasting impact on the world of sales tax. The introduction of economic nexus legislation across all states with a sales tax has changed the playing field for both online and remote sellers in terms of compliance and understanding the nuances of varying state laws.

Managing Multistate Nexus Challenges

As businesses expand across state lines, they may face multiple challenges in managing their sales tax nexus obligations. Compliance with varying sales tax laws for each state is crucial to avoid potential tax liabilities and penalties. In this section, we’ll discuss various strategies for sellers operating in multiple states, as well as common pitfalls to avoid.

Strategies for Multistate Sellers

To manage sales tax nexus challenges effectively, companies should consider the following strategies:

  1. Stay informed: Keep up to date with the latest changes in sales tax laws, rates, and nexus thresholds. This may involve subscribing to tax newsletters, consulting experts, or reviewing state tax department websites.
  2. Understand sales tax nexus thresholds: Determine the level of economic activity necessary to trigger nexus in various states. This may include analyzing the number of sales transactions, total sales revenue, or other criteria, which can differ from state to state.
  3. Registration: Register with the appropriate taxing jurisdiction in each state where your company has established an economic nexus, allowing you to collect and remit sales taxes accordingly.
  4. Accurate record-keeping: Maintain detailed records of sales transactions, especially when dealing with multiple states. This information will be crucial in filing accurate tax returns and supporting your company’s position in the event of an audit.
  5. Utilize technology: Implement tax automation software to help calculate, file, and remit sales taxes. These solutions can save time, reduce errors, and simplify the process of managing multistate tax obligations.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Multistate nexus challenges can be highly complex, and businesses often encounter pitfalls along the way. To minimize risks and ensure compliance, consider the following tips:

  • Don’t overlook remote retailers: If your company sells goods through remote retailers, such as online marketplaces, be aware that these sales may also trigger nexus in various states. Ensure that your online sales are appropriately included when determining nexus thresholds.
  • Don’t assume that all states are the same: Each state has unique sales tax laws and regulations. It’s essential to customize your tax strategy based on the specific requirements of each jurisdiction where your business operates.
  • Know the limits of physical presence: Physical presence is not the only factor that can trigger nexus. Economic activity within a state, such as meeting a threshold amount of sales revenue, can also create nexus. Be prepared to monitor and manage your company’s activities accordingly.

By following these strategies and avoiding common pitfalls, companies can successfully navigate the complexities of multistate sales tax nexus and maintain compliance across their business activities.

Future Trends and Projections

As sales tax nexus continues to evolve, it’s crucial for businesses to stay updated with the current and upcoming nexus trends. This section provides insights into anticipated changes in nexus laws, which encompass various aspects such as economic nexus, sales tax rates and thresholds, local and statewide tax regulations, and potential penalties.

Anticipated Changes in Nexus Laws

  • Economic Nexus Expansion: Since the Wayfair ruling in 2018, an increasing number of states have implemented economic nexus laws, and the trend is expected to continue. As a result, it’s essential for businesses to monitor and comply with these new laws to avoid potential penalties.
  • Economic Nexus Thresholds: Economic nexus thresholds may be subject to change, as states reassess their requirements based on factors such as sales volume and the number of transactions. Businesses should remain vigilant in staying current with these changes to maintain compliance.
  • Sales Tax Rate Changes: As many states have altered sales tax rates in recent years, it’s crucial to stay informed about such changes, considering the impact on business operations and profitability.
  • Local Sales Tax Regulations: Alongside statewide sales tax changes, local tax jurisdictions may update their regulations, which adds another layer of complexity. Companies should closely follow these updates to remain compliant with all applicable taxes.
  • Income Tax Nexus: Some states may expand nexus requirements to include income tax, which could impact businesses that have previously avoided establishing nexus for corporate income tax purposes. Monitoring these changes is crucial for managing potential liabilities.
  • Fines and Penalties: Establishing nexus and not complying with related sales tax obligations could lead to fines, penalties, and interest charges. As nexus laws evolve, enforcement measures may become more stringent, reinforcing the importance of staying updated and compliant.

In summary, sales tax nexus regulations are expected to experience significant changes in the future, with a particular focus on expansion, threshold adjustments, and rate changes. Maintaining awareness of these trends and ensuring compliance with nexus laws will help businesses navigate potential challenges and avoid costly penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria that determine sales tax nexus for each state?

Each state in the U.S. has different criteria for determining sales tax nexus, including physical location, owning or leasing a business office or warehouse, remote workers, and temporary presence for events or trade shows. Some states also have economic nexus criteria based on sales revenue or transaction volume.

How do you calculate your sales tax liability when you have nexus in multiple states?

To calculate sales tax liability for nexus in multiple states, you should first determine if you meet the criteria for nexus in each state. Then, obtain the sales tax rate for that state and apply it to the taxable transactions conducted there. For example, if you have nexus in California and New York, calculate your sales tax liability for each state separately, considering both state and local tax rates in each jurisdiction.

What are the differences between economic nexus and physical presence in sales tax law?

Physical presence nexus relates to having a tangible, demonstrable presence in a specific jurisdiction, such as having local employees, an office, or a warehouse. Economic nexus focuses on the level of your business activities within a particular state, such as a certain sales revenue threshold or a specific number of transactions within the state. Economic nexus laws came into play following the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, affecting many online retailers.

How can businesses determine if they meet the economic thresholds for nexus in specific states?

To determine economic nexus in a specific state, you should refer to that state’s official guidelines or statutes on sales tax nexus. Many states provide economic nexus information through their Department of Revenue or Taxation websites. You must then compare your sales revenue or transaction volume with the thresholds set by the state.

What are the implications of having income tax nexus versus sales tax nexus?

Income tax nexus refers to the requirement for a business to pay corporate income tax to a specific state due to its activities in that state. Sales tax nexus is the obligation to collect and remit sales tax on qualifying transactions in a given state. The implications may vary, with sales tax nexus affecting the prices charged to customers, while income tax nexus impacts the amount of taxable income subject to a particular state tax rate.

How do international business operations affect sales tax nexus and compliance?

International business operations can add complexity to sales tax nexus and compliance. For instance, foreign businesses with a presence in the U.S. may be subject to sales tax nexus in certain states, based on their activities or economic ties. It is important for businesses with international operations to consult with tax professionals and monitor changes in sales tax laws as they relate to international transactions and cross-border taxation.