Category Archives: Ecommerce Business

How US Sales Tax Works

Author: Mark Faggiano  |  November 8, 2017

When selling online you should understand the laws around sales tax throughout the United States. From products to shipping costs, there are rules and regulations around taxes that differ from state to state and item to item. Our partner, Tax Jar, has written a piece to share their sales tax expertise.


coins-currency-investment-insuranceFor a variety of reasons, the United States has managed to build one of the most complex and downright confusing sales tax systems in the world. And as an online business owner, it’s important that you wrap your head around this system so you can at least keep your head down and collect the right amount of sales tax from the right customers.

This quick sales tax 101 guide will explain the ins and outs of U.S. sales tax for online sellers so you can get back to doing what you do best – running your eCommerce business.

Sales Tax is Governed at the State Level

It’s a common misconception that all tax in the U.S. is administered by the IRS. In fact, the U.S. has no federal level sales tax, and no overarching governing body. Instead, sales tax is governed at the state level.

This means that each state gets to make their own rules and laws about things like sales tax rates, which merchants have to collect sales tax, and what items are taxable. It also means that as an online seller, if you have to deal with sales tax in more than one state, you’ll probably find that each state is quite different.

Online Retailers Don’t Always Have to Collect Sales Tax in Every State

One thing online retailers are often surprised to learn is that they aren’t generally required to collect sales from every buyer. Instead, in the U.S., online sellers are only required to collect sales tax in states where you have “sales tax nexus.” Sales tax nexus is just a legalese way of saying “obligation to collect sales tax in a state.”

Each state gets to decide what creates nexus. Common factors that create nexus are having a location, employee or inventory for sale in a warehouse in a state. You can read what each state says creates sales tax nexus here.

Sales Tax Rates Vary from Place to Place

Sales tax is a percentage of a sale that is collected by a retailer and then remitted to a state (and sometimes local areas). Those state and local governments use sales tax to pay for budget items like schools, roads, and fire departments.

Sales tax rates vary from state to state and between local areas.

States set a statewide sales tax rate. Then most states allow local areas – cities, counties and other special taxing districts – to also set a sales tax rate. This means that most areas have a combination of several sales tax rates.

To see how this breaks down, let’s look at the sales tax rate in Marion, Illinois:

6.25% Illinois state sales tax rate

1% Williamson County sales tax rate

1.5% Marion city sales tax rate

8.75% combined total sales tax rate

In other words, if you were buying a toothbrush in Marion, Illinois, you’d pay 8.75% in sales tax on your purchase.

Though there are a few exceptions, as an online seller, you generally charge your buyer sales tax at the sales tax rate of their ship to address. (I.e. if you sold that toothbrush to the buyer in Marion, Illinois, you’d collect 8.75% in sales tax from them.)

Product Taxability Varies from State to State

In the U.S., most “tangible personal property” is taxable. But there are some exceptions, which can vary from state to state. Items like groceries, clothing, medical supplies and textbooks, among other things, are sometimes nontaxable in some states.

For example, clothing is not taxable in Pennsylvania, textbooks are not taxable in Kentucky, and groceries are not taxable in most U.S. states.

Things can get even more complicated. For example, clothing in New York is non-taxable, as long as it’s priced at $110 or less. And while the New York statewide sales tax rate is not applicable clothing priced under $110, some local areas still consider clothing taxable. As another example, groceries in Illinois are taxable, but only at a reduced rate of 1%. Fortunately for online sellers, automated sales tax collection engines can take all these state rules and laws into account so you don’t have to worry about accidentally charging sales tax to the wrong customer in the wrong state on the wrong item!

Shipping Charges are Taxable (Usually)

As an online seller you, of course, get your items to your customers by shipping them. And many online sellers charge a small fee for shipping. It’s important to note that more than half of U.S. states consider shipping to be a taxable charge.

Let’s say you sell a Nintendo Switch for $300 plus $10 in shipping to a buyer in a state like Michigan, where shipping charges are taxable. You’d be required to charge your buyer sales tax on the entire transaction cost – $310.

But say you sell that same Nintendo Switch for the same price to a buyer in a state like Missouri, where shipping charges are not taxable. In that case, you’d only be required to charge sales tax on the $300 item price and not the $10 shipping charge.

You can see which states require sales tax on shipping here.

Sales Tax Administration Varies from State to State

If you deal with sales tax in more than one state, you’ll probably notice many differences from state to state. However, there are a few general rules of thumb.

First, most states want you to file sales tax returns either monthly, quarterly or annually. (Though some will want to hear from you semi-annually or on a fiscal annual basis.)  Usually, the more sales tax you collect from buyers in a state, the more often the state will want you to file and pay sales tax.

States also set their sales tax deadlines on different days of the month. While more than half of the states set the sales tax filing deadline on the 20th of the month following the taxable period, others have due dates on the last day of the month, the 15th, the 23rd, or some other date.

And about half the states with a sales tax even provide sales tax discounts to filers who file and pay on time. This means states will let you keep a small percentage (usually 1-2%) of the sales tax you collected from customers. It’s free money!

I hope this post has helped you wrap your head around the sales tax system in the U.S. For a whole lot more about U.S. sales tax, check out our Sales Tax 101 for Online Sellers guide, or start the conversation in the comments!

TaxJar is a service that makes sales tax reporting and filing simple for more than 10,000 online sellers.  Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!


About the Author

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Mark Faggiano is the Founder and CEO of TaxJar – a service that automates sales tax compliance for over 5,000 eCommerce businesses. Mark has built a career around his passion for using technology to solve complex problems that hamper growth for small businesses. He previously co-founded and grew FileLater to become the web’s leading tax extension service for both businesses and individual taxpayers before it was acquired in 2010.

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Capturing More Leads Through Your Ecommerce Website

Author: Robert Rand  |  June 20, 2017

We know the process of capturing a sale begins much earlier than once a customer reaches the shopping cart and checkout. So, we have invited our partner, Rand Marketing, to share their expertise on earning more sales through your ecommerce website.


Just because your primary objective is to make immediate eCommerce sales does not mean that there aren’t additional opportunities to communicate with shoppers in order to earn more sales. Think of it like a physical store: there are benefits to having salespeople readily available to help customers. There are also upsides to making it easy for a customer to request to receive ongoing communications from your business.

In the world of eCommerce, there are two major types of leads that you may run into.

Hot Leads

These are shoppers who have questions and are hoping to get specific feedback or answers. You can capture these leads through some of the following methods:

Phone: It’s recommended to have your phone number easily accessible. Often they are located in the header and footer of the site as well as your Contact page.

Contact Forms: Whether a simple Contact Us, more detailed Custom Quote Request or Wholesale Account Request form, making it easy for shoppers to submit inquiries 24/7 gives you an opportunity to capture their information.

LiveChat: Shoppers may be multi-tasking, or may otherwise not be interested in speaking with a representative (there’s a whole new generation for whom texting is a mainstream form of communication). Chatting with an operator right through your website helps shoppers on their terms. It also gives you an opportunity to pop out and offer assistance, much like a traditional sales clerk might. Services like Oct8ne help you to act like a personal shopper, showing recommended items on the client’s screen, and helping to add to the cart. If you don’t have the resources to man the lines, newer services like Proonto offer a wide selection of chat operators that you can select and train. Other services like AltoCloud can help connect you via Text Messages, Facebook Messenger, and a variety of other mediums.

Address: If you have a physical address that’s available to the public, some shoppers may opt to see items in person. Since not all eCommerce sites have brick-and-mortar locations, making it clear that you do can be beneficial and can also help establish your brand as being more public and rooted in some ways.

As a fringe benefit, some shoppers that won’t ever call you for one-on-one assistance will appreciate knowing that they could if they needed to, making it more likely that they’ll make a purchase while browsing through your site.

The Long Game

While leads that are ready to “buy now” are of course the most prized, there are direct and indirect costs to getting shoppers to your site, and opportunity costs to letting them leave empty handed. To solve these situations, you can consider efforts such as:

E-mail Marketing: Collecting Email Addresses is a great way to stay in touch. While you may not make an immediate sale, you’ll get more chances to do so by keeping your store “top of mind” with consumers. If a shopper has left an item in their cart, you may even be able to follow up with an Abandoned Cart Email, making it easier for them return to the shopping cart on your website and finish placing their order. For some websites, this can also extend to sending offers via Text Messages, Direct Mail, and other mediums.

ReMarketing & ReTargeting: By using cookies and Email addresses, you can target consumers who have visited your site with ads. These ads may appear on sites, like news websites and blogs, as they traverse the internet. It’s a great way to reinforce your brand, and remind them to come back and complete a transaction. This can be tapered so that it’s done tastefully and reasonably.

Social Media: When a user follows your business on social media, they can become privy to posts that you make in those social media accounts. Like email marketing, this can be a great way to stay in touch long-term, and let shoppers know about new products, discounts, and other opportunities.

Mobile Apps: If you offer mobile apps, getting consumers to download them to their smart devices can provide multiple benefits. They will see your logo while scrolling through their apps, which is great. You also get opportunities to send them push notifications with new offers, like sales.

If you’re not sure how to best optimize your website to capture both eCommerce sales and leads or need help with digital marketing campaigns to stay in touch with shoppers, consider requesting a free consultation from an internet marketing firm. Such teams can discuss how they can help you meet your long-term goals of improved conversion rates.


 

About the Author

Rand Marketing Headshot resizedRobert Rand is the Chief Technology Officer at Rand Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Educated at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites and helped to lead Rand Marketing to become a Google Premier Partner Agency, an INC5000 Company, and a long-standing A+ business with the BBB. He’s best known as one of the foremost experts in eCommerce strategies in the USA and is proud to work side by side with one of the industries best teams of designers, developers, and digital marketers.

 

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How to Work with Your Digital Agency to Divide and Conquer

Author: Robert Rand  |  April 26, 2017

Having a strong internet marketing strategy in place to coincide with your shipping strategy is important if you want to secure sales and keep loyal customers coming back for more. So, we have invited Robert Rand, CTO of Rand Marketing, to provide tips and examples of how your internal team should work with your digital agency to conquer internet marketing tasks.


Hiring service industry professionals often come with a degree of freedom, allowing you to benefit from the help that you need, without paying for work that you’d prefer to do yourself. For instance, if a car dealer offers to sell you a car wash with your oil change, you might decide that you could just as soon have your kids clean your car for you.

In the world of internet marketing, you can take similar measures to have experienced professionals assist with what you need while working in tandem with your other resources. It all depends on how much time you and your co-workers have, how many people you want to hire, and your level of comfort in addressing issues without an outside marketing guru involved. Below are some examples of how you can leverage an outside team while retaining specific tasks internally:

email

Email Marketing

It’s common for businesses to approach their digital agency to help to design emails for use with an email marketing platform, integrate the coded designs, and test. An agency can also help to upload your lists, help to sync email signups from your website automatically, and set up advanced features for tracking, drip email campaigns, segmentation, and more. While these kinds of tasks can be split between the agency and business, it’s very common for the business to then schedule at least some of their email blasts, such as monthly messages about new products and sales directly. As email marketing platforms get easier and easier to use, more and more businesses are stepping up to the plate to manage more of their own email campaigns.

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Press Releases

While you can have an agency write a release, and submit it to a major press release distributor, if you have someone on your team that’s familiar with the formatting and content standards for press releases, you could just as well write it, and pay the agency to submit it for you. A good agency can address particulars like SEO tagging for you as part of the submission service.

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Affiliate Marketing

Much like email marketing, once you’re set up with an affiliate network, and have designed any collateral, such as banners, you could have an agency help with ongoing management, or you could choose to self-manage, allowing you to reach out to publishers directly in order to make them aware of the opportunities to promote your goods or services in exchange for a commission on sales that they directly help to generate.

affiliate

Search Engine Optimization

If you have a great web developer, an agency can provide feedback on how to improve your website’s organic rankings by addressing on-site code related issues that your developer can then address. You can also play a big role in content creation, writing blog posts, articles, and other pages of content to help with SEO efforts, allowing your agency to focus on link building, optimizing the content that you provide, and other more specific tasks.

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Pay-Per-Click Marketing

While an agency may help to build and optimize your paid digital advertising, if you have a good graphic designer with experience in designing captivating banner ads, you may choose to supply your own banner ads to your agency.

At the end of the day, each situation and relationship are different. The #1 task that businesses normally take on, is related to content. Whether it’s text, photos, video, or other collateral, you know your business and industry really well, and will often be the best the sources of content. This includes for platforms like social media networks, where it’s important to share new developments in your business, like new products that you’re launching.


About the Author

Rand Marketing Headshot resizedRobert Rand is the Chief Technology Officer at Rand Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Educated at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, Robert has managed the development and marketing of hundreds of websites and helped to lead Rand Marketing to become a Google Premier Partner Agency, an INC5000 Company, and a long-standing A+ business with the BBB. He’s best known as one of the foremost experts in eCommerce strategies in the USA and is proud to work side by side with one of the industries best teams of designers, developers, and digital marketers.

 

Link to full article