US Sales Tax

With complex and varying compliance rules across 45 States, US Sales Tax can present a significant and burdensome barrier to successful trade in the US. This challenge is heightened by the increasing scrutiny that is being given to reporting by the state tax authorities looking for additional revenues.

You can review US Sales Tax Rates here

45 independent tax regimes

US Sales Tax is a consumption tax on the sale of goods and services to the end consumer. Unlike VAT or GST, it is only levied on the final transaction with the customer, and there is no charging or reporting requirements for the companies in the supply chain. In most situations, the seller is held responsible for the calculation, collection and settlement of tax to the local state.

It is charged by State and local authorities and administered by the merchant who is responsible for charging a combined % tax.  A merchant must charge sales tax if it has a 'nexus' in the State, which can be a physical presence of employees, property or inventory.  This is similar to the permanent establishment concept.

Sales Tax was first introduced in West Virginia in 1921. It has since spread to 45 states in the US. The US is one of the very few countries in the world that still applies a final sales tax; most OECD countries now operate a full VAT or GST tax regime.

Complex US sales tax compliance

Each state sets operates its own compliance regime, which creates complex variations in:

  • Which goods and services are liable to tax (e.g. food and clothing is often excluded)
  • Invoicing requirements (e.g. legal basis of tax)
  • Registration requirements with each state authority
  • Reporting timetables and deadlines
  • Sales tax returns
  • Fines and penalties for non-compliance
  • Tax audit processes

Such differences mean it is important to plan the best structuring of invoices and in which state the tax should be recognised. Careful planning at the outset is vital to ensure any queries from the tax authorities are kept to a minimum.


Latest American news

US Wyoming marketplace sales tax collections

February 18, 2019

Wyoming is to require marketplaces to collect out-of-state Sellers’ sales tax from 1 July 2019. This is based on the 2019 South Dakota v Wayfair Supreme Court ruling, imposing ‘economic nexus’ sales tax liabilities on sellers not located in a state for the first time.

US New York implements Wayfair Sales Tax rule

January 16, 2019

The New York state tax department published on 15 January 2019 guidance on the immediate requirements for out-of-state sellers to register and charge Sales Tax.

US Texas Sales Tax economic nexus

January 3, 2019

Texas has become the latest US state to implement Sales Tax obligations on out-of-state (non-resident) merchants. This follows the 2018 South Dakota vs Wayfair Supreme Court ruling obliging remote sellers without a presence in a state to charge and remit local Sales Tax.