Banner image for Scaling New Heights 2024, the premier accounting technology conference in the United States. The image features the conference theme and dates.

Sales Tax for eCommerce Accountants

Rachel Dauchy
Posted by Rachel Dauchy on Mar 13, 2024 12:52:56 PM

In the ever-evolving world of eCommerce, we accountants must go beyond the usual number-crunching. We've got to dive deep into the intricate world of sales tax regulations. It's on us to make sure our online business clients stay on the right side of the law while maximizing their financial efficiency. Staying on top of eCommerce sales tax isn't just important—it's critical to our work. After all, it directly impacts our client's bottom line and overall success.

In this article, I'll explain why nailing sales tax matters so much to accountants in the eCommerce realm. We're the ones who must navigate these complex tax landscapes, crafting financial strategies that keep our clients thriving in the digital marketplace. 

Understanding eCommerce Sales Tax Basics 

Sales tax in eCommerce can be complex, and understanding its rules and regulations is crucial for sellers. eCommerce sellers must grasp the "nexus" concept, which determines their tax obligations. This fancy term basically decides whether or not you owe taxes in a particular state. There are two main flavors of nexus: physical and economic. Physical nexus kicks in when your business has a tangible presence in a state—think offices, stores, warehouses, employees, or even inventory stored in someone else’s warehouse. Economic nexus, on the other hand, hinges on your sales activities, particularly where your online orders are being shipped. Now, here's where it gets tricky: each state sets its own thresholds and lookback periods, making sales tax management a real headache. eCommerce folks like us must keep an eye on sales in every state and stay vigilant for signs that we're creeping toward those economic nexus triggers. 

Navigating State Sales Tax Regulations 

State sales tax laws vary significantly, which presents a challenge for eCommerce businesses looking to stay compliant and navigate their tax obligations effectively. Each state has its own set of regulations, thresholds, and exemptions, making it essential for businesses to understand the specific requirements in each jurisdiction where they conduct sales. Strategies for determining sales tax obligations in different states involve thorough research and compliance efforts. Businesses must stay informed about the latest updates and changes to state tax laws, leverage technology solutions for accurate tax calculations, and establish robust processes for collecting and remitting sales tax. And hey, when in doubt, it never hurts to reach out to the tax pros for a helping hand. Plus, most state revenue departments offer resources and guidance to steer us in the right direction.     

Managing Sales Tax Compliance 

Getting registered for sales tax permits in the states where we do business is like laying down the groundwork—it's imperative for us eCommerce folks to stay on the right side of state tax laws. This usually means jumping through a few hoops, like filling out applications with the state's Department of Revenue or Taxation and snagging a shiny new sales tax permit for each place where we've got a foothold. But hey, the work doesn't stop there. We've got to stay sharp when it comes to actually collecting and handing over that sales tax dough. Here's where some smart moves come into play: 

Best practices for collecting and remitting sales tax accurately and on time include: 

  • Implementing automated tax calculation software (Trust me, it's a game-changer). 
  • Maintaining detailed records of sales transactions. 
  • Regularly reconciling sales tax collected with sales tax remitted. 

Additionally, businesses should stay up to date on changes to sales tax rates and regulations, file tax returns on time to avoid penalties, and promptly address any inquiries or audits from state tax authorities. By following these steps and best practices, eCommerce businesses can ensure compliance with sales tax laws and mitigate the risk of costly penalties. 

Sales Tax Automation Tools and Solutions 

Sales tax automation tools and solutions are pivotal in alleviating the burden of sales tax compliance for businesses. It's important to understand the capabilities of each platform regarding tax management, whether it involves calculation, collection, or remittance. One solution NetDeposited utilizes is Davo by Avalara, which sets aside sales tax funds daily, ensuring they're readily available for tax obligations. Moreover, Davo files and pays taxes promptly and in full, providing businesses with peace of mind and mitigating the risk of late payments or penalties. By leveraging advanced automation tools like Davo, businesses can streamline their sales tax processes, minimize manual errors, and maintain compliance with regulatory requirements.  

Addressing Common Sales Tax Challenges 

Based on my extensive experience, one of the most prevalent challenges I encounter revolves around sales tax comprehension. Business owners often have several misconceptions: 

  • They may need to pay more attention to the fact that sales tax is determined by the shipping address (i.e., where the item is shipped to, not from). 
  • Some believe that platforms automatically handle sales tax without correctly configuring the settings. 
  • There's a common misconception that marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy manage and remit sales tax on behalf of sellers. While these platforms may facilitate sales tax processing, it's essential to discern the role of a platform versus a marketplace. 
  • Misinformation can lead to under-collection and under-reporting of taxes, potentially resulting in audits.   

Future Trends in eCommerce Sales Tax 

Significant shifts are expected in the realm of eCommerce sales tax due to evolving regulations and market dynamics. These changes include stricter enforcement of tax collection requirements across states, driven by the Supreme Court's ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair. This decision allows states to impose economic nexus standards, expanding tax obligations for online businesses. Additionally, trends like the growth of digital marketplaces and cross-border eCommerce transactions will influence future tax regulations. eCommerce businesses must stay informed and proactive to adapt to new compliance requirements and mitigate risks effectively. 


In conclusion, mastering eCommerce sales tax is essential for eCommerce accountants to ensure compliance and financial efficiency for online businesses. Understanding the basics of sales tax, navigating state regulations, and managing compliance challenges are key aspects of this process. Leveraging sales tax automation tools and solutions can streamline processes and mitigate risks while staying informed about future trends and developments, which is key to adapting to evolving regulatory landscapes. Connecting with other eCommerce accounting professionals and building relationships with the apps and platforms used to facilitate tax management can enhance collaboration and knowledge sharing, ultimately empowering professionals to assist their clients better and navigate the complexities of eCommerce sales tax. By taking a proactive approach to eCommerce sales tax, accountants can play a pivotal role in helping businesses thrive in the dynamic world of online commerce. 

Topics: Sales Tax, E-Commerce


Sign up and stay plugged into the education, news pieces and information relevant to you.

Subscribe to The Woodard Report today! 

Do you have questions about this article? Email us and let us know >