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Cyber Monday: Sales and Use Tax


 Who needs 'em?

We interrupt your Cyber Monday shopping binge to remind you to pay use tax if you didn’t pay sales tax at the point of purchase.*

Shopping deals are making headlines. The Huffington Post is providing Live Updates from the Best Cyber Monday Deals. USA Today says they’ve worked relentlessly to find the best deals. Even Business Insider is getting into the mix, announcing the best deals in tech. One way to reduce costs, it is often said, is to purchase from retailers not required to charge you sales tax.

But state departments of revenue are equally armed and ready, reminding taxpayers to remit use tax on their untaxed taxable purchases. Each state takes a unique approach, as evidenced by the examples below.

California State Board of Equalization

California tugs at the conscience of shoppers by pointing out that use tax has been in effect since 1935 and that it ‘helps fund public safety, education and more.” Says BOE Executive Director Cynthia Bridges: “Some shoppers haven’t heard of use tax, but it has been providing support for public services for decades – long before the Internet existed.”

Taxpayers may remit use tax with their state income tax returns or pay it on the BOE website or through BOE Mobile Apps (Online Shopping Could Spur Funding for California’s Vital Public Services).

Florida Department of Revenue

Use tax makes the main page of the Florida DOR website, perhaps in order to educate the many Florida citizens who “are not aware that this state has a ‘use tax’.” It lists the usual use tax triggers (internet and mail-order catalog purchases), as well as the following:

  • Purchases made in another country.
  • Furniture purchased from dealers located in another state.
  • Computer equipment ordered from out-of-state vendors advertising in magazines.

Florida use tax is due on the first day of the month following the quarter in which purchases are made and is late after the 20th of that month. It may be filed and paid online or by mail using Form DR-15MO and remitting a check (Have you bought or received merchandise from out of state or through the internet? You Might Owe Florida Tax).

Idaho State Tax Commission

Idaho takes a straightforward approach, reminding taxpayers that use tax exists and explaining when and how it should be paid. Since sellers don’t collect sales tax if they are not Idaho retailers, online, mail-order and phone shoppers “owe use tax if the goods are used, given away, stored, or consumed in Idaho.” Idaho taxpayers may either report use tax on individual income tax returns or file Form 850-U, the Idaho Self-Assessed Use Tax Worksheet and Return. Use tax has been in effect in Idaho since 1965 (Holiday shoppers may owe use tax on Internet purchases).

Despite appearances, these and other state departments of revenue aren’t trying to be Grinchy. They just want the tax revenue.

* Please disregard if you live in sales-tax-free Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Although individuals are rarely audited for use tax, businesses frequently are. Fortunately, you can automate consumer use tax. Learn more.

photo credit: derpunk via photopin cc


Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.