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Essential state sales tax filing tips

  • Feb 22, 2017 | Jessica Sillers

State sales tax filing deadlines are coming up soon. Many, although not all, states set the 20th of the month as the deadline for monthly filers. The 25th is another common filing deadline. Annual filers who remit sales tax for New York should also prepare returns, because New York collects annual sales tax returns in March.

Business owners should also remember that states with no official sales tax may still require some form of return. Delaware, New Mexico, Hawaii, and individual municipalities in Alaska may collect gross receipts returns or local taxes.

When to file

How often a business must file state and local sales tax typically depends on the business’s gross income or taxable sales in the state or locality. Most states have monthly, quarterly, and annual sales tax filing guidelines. A few have additional categories. Florida, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota have a semi-annual filing category, for example.

It’s possible for businesses to change categories year to year, so if revenue has changed dramatically, double-check which filing frequency applies to your business.

Which forms to use

States may require slightly different forms for sales tax returns. Check the state’s website if you are unsure what’s required. Generally speaking, states will need the following.

  • Identification information for the business
  • Sales tax return form for your filing frequency (often monthly, quarterly, or annually)
  • Report of taxable sales in the state
  • Applicable sales tax exemption documents
  • Submission of sales tax collected

Electronic vs. snail mail filing

Electronic filing may be faster and more convenient than submitting a paper return. Thirteen states currently require businesses to file sales tax returns online:

  • Alabama
  • Florida (required for filers who paid $20,000 or more in the prior state fiscal year or file a consolidated return)
  • Georgia (for taxpayers who owe more than $500)
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri (for monthly or quarterly filers, or those meeting a minimum sales tax liability threshold)
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico (for filers meeting certain conditions, such as not using a tax professional to prepare filings)
  • Oklahoma (for taxpayers who owed a monthly average of $2,500 or more in sales tax during the previous fiscal year)
  • Pennsylvania (if filers submitted 10 or more sales tax returns in the previous year)
  • Rhode Island (for sellers meeting minimum sales tax liability thresholds)
  • South Dakota (for returns of $1,000 or more, or average return of $500 or more)
  • Texas (for sellers meeting minimum sales tax liability thresholds)
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia (sellers whose annual sales tax liability is $25,000 or more)

Staying on top of your tax obligations can be a tricky business, but with a little preparation you'll be on to other things in no time. And as always, we're here to help.

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Jessica Sillers
Avalara Author Jessica Sillers