www.taxprofessionals.com - TaxProfessionals.com
Posted by Rosovich & Associates, Inc.

Sales Tax for Online Sellers: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

Sales Tax for Online Sellers: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

As online selling continues to flourish, the taxation landscape has become increasingly complex for e-commerce businesses. One crucial aspect that online sellers need to navigate is sales tax. In the United States, sales tax is levied by states and local jurisdictions, and its application to online transactions has evolved over the years. This article provides an updated and comprehensive guide to sales tax for online sellers in 2023, including key concepts, recent legislative changes, and practical considerations.

I. Understanding Sales Tax

A sales tax is a consumption tax imposed on the sale of goods and certain services. The rate and application of sales tax vary among states and local jurisdictions. Unlike income tax, which is based on a seller's profits, sales tax is generally imposed on the gross sales amount. Online sellers must determine their sales tax obligations to ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties.

II. Nexus and Sales Tax Obligations

"Nexus" refers to a seller's connection or sufficient presence in a state, which triggers the obligation to collect and remit sales tax. The concept of nexus has evolved with the rise of online commerce. Previously, physical presence (e.g., having a physical store or warehouse) was the main criterion for establishing a nexus. However, recent changes have expanded the definition of nexus to include economic activity thresholds.

  • Physical Presence Nexus: Online sellers with a physical presence (e.g., offices, warehouses, employees) in a state have a sales tax obligation in that state. Physical presence nexus rules still apply and can vary from state to state.

  • Economic Nexus: Many states have adopted economic nexus laws, which establish sales tax obligations based on specified sales thresholds. Once an online seller exceeds these thresholds in a state, they are required to collect and remit sales tax. Thresholds can be based on the seller's sales revenue or the number of transactions in the state.

III. Wayfair Decision and Economic Nexus

The landmark Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018) brought significant changes to sales tax obligations for online sellers. The Court ruled that physical presence is no longer the sole requirement for establishing nexus, opening the door for states to enforce economic nexus laws.

Following the Wayfair decision, most states have enacted economic nexus laws. Each state sets its own economic threshold, typically based on sales revenue or the number of transactions. As an online seller, monitoring your sales in each state and determining whether you meet the economic nexus thresholds is crucial.

IV. Marketplace Facilitator Laws

To simplify sales tax collection, many states have implemented marketplace facilitator laws. These laws require online marketplaces (such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy) to collect and remit sales tax on behalf of their third-party sellers. This shift in responsibility alleviates the burden on individual online sellers, but it is essential to understand the specific rules and thresholds set by each marketplace and state.

V. Sales Tax Collection and Reporting

Once an online seller determines their sales tax obligations, collecting and reporting sales tax accurately is necessary. Here are the key steps involved:

  • Register for a Sales Tax Permit: Online sellers need to register for a sales tax permit in each state where they have a sales tax obligation. This can typically be done through the state's Department of Revenue or a similar agency.

  • Collecting Sales Tax: When a taxable sale occurs, online sellers must collect the appropriate sales tax from the customer. This can be done by adding the sales tax to the sale price or separately stating the tax amount.

  • Reporting and Filing: Online sellers must report and file sales tax returns regularly, even if no sales tax was collected during a specific period. Filing frequencies and deadlines vary by state, so staying updated and maintaining accurate records is crucial.

  • Remitting Sales Tax: Sellers are responsible for remitting the sales tax collected to the appropriate taxing authority. This can usually be done electronically through the state's online portal or by mail.

VI. Exemptions and Taxability of Products

Depending on the state, certain products and services may be exempt from sales tax. Common exemptions include food, prescription medications, and certain medical supplies. Online sellers should familiarize themselves with the specific exemptions applicable in each state they operate.

VII. Sales Tax Automation and Software

Managing sales tax compliance can be complex, especially for sellers operating in multiple states. Many online sellers utilize sales tax automation software or services to streamline the process. These tools integrate with e-commerce platforms, calculate sales tax, and assist with reporting and filing.

It is important to note that sales tax automation tools are not a substitute for understanding your sales tax obligations. They are intended to complement your compliance efforts and ensure accurate calculations and timely filings.


Navigating sales tax as an online seller requires a thorough understanding of nexus, economic thresholds, marketplace facilitator laws, and compliance obligations. Staying informed about legislative changes and leveraging automation tools can help online sellers manage their sales tax responsibilities efficiently. Remember, consulting with a tax professional or advisor familiar with sales tax regulations is always recommended to ensure compliance with the evolving landscape of sales tax laws.



Rosovich & Associates, Inc.
Contact Member