Understanding sales tax return due dates
- Apr 14, 2017 | Laura McCamy
It would be handy for ecommerce sellers if every state followed the same calendar for sales tax return due dates.
But of course they don’t. Like everything else about sales tax, every state has a different twist on sales tax return due dates.
Here are a few examples and some pointers.
Quarterly or monthly sales tax return due dates
Before you can calendar your sales tax return due dates, you need to know your reporting basis. You could remit sales taxes monthly, quarterly, or annually. Which category you fall into will depend, in most cases, on how much tax you owe.
First-time filers in New York generally file a quarterly return. If you owe less than $3,000 in sales taxes annually, you’ll get bumped to annual payments. If your yearly taxable sales top $300,000, you’ll switch to monthly payments.
You may have different reporting periods in different states, and your sales tax return due dates may change over time as your sales volume in a particular state goes up or down. California may require pre-payment of sales taxes if you make a lot of sales in the state.
If you’re unsure about your reporting basis, contact the state department of revenue to find out. Missed returns can mean big penalties.
The examples below address quarterly sales tax return due dates, since that is the most common reporting period for small to mid-sized ecommerce businesses.
Variations in sales tax return due dates
In California, sales taxes are due on the last day of the month following the end of the quarter. For example, your California sales tax return for the first quarter of 2017 (January 1 through March 31) is due April 30. When the last day of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the return is due the next business day after the due date.
In Texas, your sales tax return is due on the 20th of the month following the end of the quarter. Your Texas sales taxes for the first quarter of 2017 are due April 20. When the 20th of the month falls on a weekend or a holiday, sales tax return due dates move back to the next business day.
New York’s quarterly reporting periods are downright weird. Sales taxes returns are due on the 20th day of the last month of each quarter: March, June, September and December. The reporting period is the three months prior. So your March 2017 sales tax return for New York covers December 2016 through February 2017.
You can’t count on the sales tax return due dates to follow a pattern from one state to the next. Every time you get sales tax nexus in a new state, make sure you understand that state’s reporting periods.
Holidays and sales tax return due dates
Every state closes offices on national holidays like Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Veterans Day. Those aren’t the only holidays that may affect sales tax return due dates, however. California state offices close for Caesar Chavez Day on March 31. Texas has several Lone Star holidays, including San Jacinto Day and Juneteenth. The annual holiday calendars for state offices will tell you if state holidays affect sales tax return due dates.
In California, New York, and Texas, holidays and weekends move the sales tax return due dates back a day or two. Don’t assume that every state will follow this pattern. Look up the sales tax return due dates for the year in each state where you have nexus and add them to your calendar.