This is one of the most common topics that I get questions about on a daily basis and for a good reason, taxes are confusing! To help clear this up I wanted to put together a post that will provide you with all of the info that I have learned regarding Amazon sales tax and nexus.
I have been doing a lot of research online, reading articles, watching videos/webinars and I recently visited my accountant who was able to answer some of my questions. I think I am qualified enough and know enough about the topic to pass it on to all of you now. With that being said, I am in NO WAY an expert when it comes to this topic nor do I know all of the details.
What I do know are the foundations, or basics, of this topic and in my opinion that is plenty when it comes to this. For the hard questions or details I would suggest consulting with a legal expert.
Alright guys and gals, let’s get started!
Types of Taxes
There are a couple of different types of taxes that you may have heard of before:
- Federal Tax
- State Tax
And if you are from outside of the United States then you will have some sort of other tax depending on where you live.
The good news for us in the United States is that we currently do not have to pay Federal sales tax. This will probably change over the next couple of years as the Government becomes more strict about internet sales but, for right now we do not have to worry about Federal sales tax.
State sales tax on the other hand, we do have to worry about.
The state sales tax is the ONLY type of tax that you have to pay (except for international sellers, more on this in a minute!). There are a total of 45 states that have a sales tax and each state’s tax rate will vary.
Most state tax rates are made up of a flat tax within a state + the local tax. For example, Washington State’s flate tax rate is 6.5% but if the sale was made in Snohomish County then there is an extra 2.1% tax rate added for the local tax. So in total, the tax rate would be 8.6%.
This same exact thing could happen in the other states depending on their tax laws. Luckily, there are tools and accountants that will help us do all of this!
No matter where you are located, In the US or in an international country, you will still have to pay the state tax where you have nexus.
This brings us to the next section which will explain everything you need to know about establishing nexus.
This is the most important aspect of collecting sales tax properly. This can be a very confusing area so I will try to break it down the best way I can.
What is a Nexus?
Having a nexus within a state means that you have a physical presence somewhere in the state. This could mean a lot of different things. For example, if you had a store in Washington state then you would have nexus in Washington.
There is a difference between having “nexus” and having a “significant nexus” and you only have to pay taxes where you have “significant nexus”. The only problem with this is that the states are extremely vague when it comes to explaining the definition of a significant nexus. However, below we will get into some known ways that you would establish significant nexus within a state as an Amazon seller.
What States do I have a Nexus in?
This is the most important question to ask yourself. Wherever you have nexus you “legally” should be paying taxes within that state. For Amazon FBA sellers there are three main ways that your business will establish a nexus within a state.
1. Home State
Wherever your business is located or where you live at, will establish a nexus. Also, if you have an office for your business then that would also establish nexus. Bottom line here, whatever state you live in while running an Amazon FBA business you will automatically have a nexus within that state.
Since I live in Washington State and my business is located here, I will have nexus within Washington.
2. Employee Location
If you have an employee that works for your business then you will have nexus in whatever state they are located in. For example, if I had an employee in Texas than I would have nexus within Texas.
3. Where Your Inventory is Stored
You will have nexus wherever you have your inventory stored at. For us Amazon sellers, this will be determined by what Amazon warehouse our products are/or have been stored at. One thing to note is that the Amazon warehouse where you sent your shipment to WILL NOT be the only warehouse that has your products.
For example, I sent all 1008 units of my first shipment to Amazon’s warehouse in Indiana so I would have nexus in Indiana. However, Amazon has moved my products to multiple other Amazon warehouses around the US since then so I will now have nexus wherever they sent my products.
To figure out what Amazon warehouses have had my products, you will need to follow the instructions below.
How to Find the Amazon Warehouses that have Stored your Products
There is a hard way and an easy way to go about doing this.
The hard way will require you to dig through some excel documents and manually find the Amazon warehouses that have stored your product. The easy way is to connect your Seller Central account up to Taxjar and they will do this automatically.
I will show both ways since Taxjar does cost money to use and some people may not want to spend money on it. However, I will say that Taxjar is extremely useful and does a lot more than just tell you where you have nexus but they also make everything regarding sales 100x easier.
The Hard Way – Using your Sellers Central Account
Step 1: The first thing you need to do is go to the homepage of your Seller Central account within Amazon. Once you are there hover your mouse over the “Reports” tab and click on “Fulfillment” from the drop down menu.
Step 2: Next, you will need to find something called “Inventory Event Detail”. To find this, you will need to click on “Show More” on the left sidebar under “Inventory”. See below:
Now you should see the option to choose the “Inventory Event Detail” link. Click on that.
Step 3: You should now see a page that looks like the one below. From here you will want to click on the “downloads” tab
Step 4: You will now choose the time frame that you want to download data for. If this is your first time doing this then I would suggest downloading all of the data since you began selling on Amazon. I have been selling since September 2015 so that is what I will use as a starting point.
Choose “exact date” and then find the starting selling date for you. Then request download:
Step 5: Once it has finished downloading, you will then need to download the file to your computer. Click on “Download” below the “Report Status”. It should then download as a .txt file.
Step 6: Open up the text file in Excel or Google Sheets. To do this, you will need to open Excel and then go to “DATA” and then click on “From Text” in the left hand corner. See below for further instructions:
Step 7: You will then need to find the text file you downloaded from Amazon and upload it into Excel. You will see a couple popups screens when you upload the file, just keep hitting “Enter” on your keyboard. You should then have all of the data in an Excel doc.
Step 8: We now need to manipulate the data to find the Amazon warehouses that our products have been stored. The column named “fulfillment-center-id” shows all of the Amazon warehouses where our products have been with an ID.
What we are going to do is remove all of the duplicate ID’s so we are left with a list of ID’s that represent all of the Amazon warehouses where our products have been. To remove the duplicates, click on the “Remove Duplicates” button at the top of Excel then ONLY check the “fulfillment-center-id” option. Click “Ok”.
Step 9: We now have a list of all of the Amazon warehouses that have stored our product at some point. There are a total of 40 different warehouses that my product has been in at one point or another. Now that we have the list, our job is to now decipher each one of the fulfillment ID’s and determine the states that they are located in.
This is when it starts to become time consuming.
To make this process a little easier, I like to sort all of the ID’s alphabetically so all of them are in order. This is helpful because many times there are multiple warehouses in one state which means there are multiple ID’s for each state. For example, “BFL1” and “BFL3” are two different warehouses but are in the same state.
This will save time because once you find the state for warehouse “BFL1” you will also know the state for the warehouse of “BFL3”.
We are going to need to cross check these fulfillment ID’s with the full list of Amazon warehouse ID’s. The full list can be found here – http://blog.taxjar.com/amazon-warehouse-locations/
You will need to go one ID at a time and determine what state each ID is located in. Make a list of all of the different states. Once you compile that list of states then you will know what states you legally have nexus within.
One thing to note, Amazon is constantly moving your inventory around so the day after you go through the whole process of checking what warehouses have stored your inventory there could be 3 new warehouses the next day. This is a huge pain in the butt and that is why I would recommend going with the option below.
The Easy Way – Using Taxjar
This is the option that I use and it makes things SO much easier. All you have to do is connect your Seller Central account to Taxjar and it will do the rest of the work for you.
Once you connect your account, you will see a list of states that you have nexus in AND how much sales tax you owe within that state. Check out the picture below of my own Taxjar account. The states that have a gold badge next to them represent that you have nexus within the state.
It’s as easy as that!
I know all of the states that I have nexus within and I know how much I own in each state, thanks to Taxjar.
Nexus with One Sales Channel = Nexus with All Channels
What I mean by this is that if you have established nexus within a state due to your sales on Amazon then you will also have nexus within that state for all of your other sales channels such as Shopify sales, Ebay or anything else.
So if you start collecting sales tax on your Amazon sales you will also need to start collecting sales tax on the rest of your sales in that state. This is important to remember as you begin branching away from Amazon and into other sales channels!
What States do I have to Collect Taxes in?
Okay, we have established how to determine what states you have nexus within and we know that “legally” we should be collecting sales tax in all of those states. However, for most sellers you don’t have to collect tax in each state.
Your Home State
I would highly suggest collecting sales tax within your home state as soon as possible. If you only collect sales tax within one state, make sure it is your home state.
Because you are going to have to PAY this sales tax at the end of year no matter what since that is the state where you pay all of your taxes in. So if you don’t collect the sales tax from buyers within your home state then you will have to pay the sales tax out of your own pocket at the end of the year. You shouldn’t EVER have to pay sales tax out of your own pocket as a business owner, that is the seller’s tax to pay, not yours.
Bottom line here is that you should start collecting sales tax within your home state as soon as you start selling. It will make things a lot easier down the road and will save you money.
After you start collecting and paying sales tax in your home state, the states that you choose after that is up to you and based on what risk tolerance you have.
After your home state, the states that you choose to collect taxes in will depend on how much you are willing to risk.
What I mean by this is that even though it is “legally” required for you to pay sales tax in any state where you have nexus, you are not forced to pay it. This means that you could possibly go years without paying a cent to the state for sales tax and never get in trouble.
However, you could also go 3 years without paying sales tax and then the government goes after you and then you have to pay ALL of the taxes that you owe for the past 3 years + a fee for not paying them on time.
It might make sense for you not to worry about sales tax in some states where you owe a small amount. For example, I owe $1.95 right now in sales tax in the state of Tennessee and it wouldn’t make sense for me to bother getting a sales permit and everything else I need to do for only $1.95. Even if the government audited me and forced me to pay what I owed to Tennessee it would still be an extremely low amount.
I am willing to take that risk and not worry about collecting and paying sales tax within Tennessee for now. It is all based upon how much money you are willing to risk possibly having to pay because at some point you may have to pay all of it.
You could be super safe and register for a sales permit in every single state that you have nexus and collect/pay in all of those states as well. Doing this may be a pain in the butt to begin with but, at least you are following the rules 100% and are not at risk.
For most people, especially sellers who are just starting out, a good option would be to register for a sales permit in your home state as well as a handful of other states that have accumulated the most sales tax.
As an example, take a look at the states that I owe the most sales tax in for 2015 below:
I may want to consider registering my business in California and Texas in addition to my home state of Washington because those are the states that I owe the most sales tax in. As my business continues to grow and I begin to owe more sales tax in other states, then I should start registering my business in those states as well.
What’s the Best Option?
Like I said, the best option for me is going to be different than the best option for you. With that being said, I have talked to Taxjar on the phone about this as well as my tax accountant and they pretty much told me the same thing.
Register in your home state first and foremost. After that, register in the states that you owe the biggest amount of money in. Then as I start to have higher sales tax in more states I will begin to register in those states.
This is the route that I will be taking for my own business for now. I would obviously like to register in all of the states that I have nexus and get that out of the way, but it doesn’t make sense based on where I am currently at with my own business.
How to Collect Sales Tax with Amazon
Now that we have established how to determine where you have nexus and what states you have to pay taxes in, we can now look at how to collect sales tax with the help of Amazon.
Amazon actually allows you to setup a tax collecting service within your Seller Central account that will charge buyers sales tax depending on where they live. This is a really cool feature that Amazon offers us sellers but, it can be confusing to setup. That is what this next section will cover, how to setup tax collection properly with Amazon.
What’s Needed to Get Started
- Amazon Professional Seller Account
- Know the states that you want to charge tax in
- State registration number for each state you plan to collect in
- Be selling on Amazon
Once you have all of the things mentioned above, you are ready to continue!
Step by Step Guide on How to Collect Taxes within your Seller Central Account
I have put together both a video guide and a written guide on how to do this. If you would rather watch the video then you can do so below:
For those of you who would rather read the step by step guide, then continue on below!
Step 1: Go to the Seller Central homepage and find the “Tax Settings” link from the drop down menu in the top right of the screen.
Step 2: You will then be taken to a page that looks like the one below. It is outlining the steps we will be taking to start collecting taxes. Click on “Continue” when you are ready!
Step 3: The next page will have a ton of helpful info regarding taxes and how Amazon collects them. I would highly suggest reading through this part and fully understanding everything here. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click “continue” once you have read through it.
Step 4: You should now be looking at a page that is displaying a list of product tax codes. What you need to do on this page is find the tax code that best fits with your product you are trying to collect taxes on.
Take a look through this page and try to find a product tax code that best represents your product. There is a good chance that you may not be able to find one that fits well. That’s okay.
If you can’t find a product tax code that fits, you will then be using the tax code of “A_GEN_TAX” which will work for products that don’t have a specific category. This is what it says about the “A_GEN_TAX”:
Whatever product tax code you are planning on using, make sure to remember it because we will need it for the next step! So write it down if needed. Then click “Continue” at the bottom of the page.
Step 5: This next step is the most important part, this is where you will set up your tax collection settings.
The way that I fill out this page will more than likely be different than you. That’s because the states that you have nexus in and want to collect taxes in will probably be different than mine. With that being said, there is still a general process that you will follow and I will be explaining that process.
First, you should read through the instructions that Amazon lays out for you on this page below:
The next thing you need to decide is if you are going to let Amazon choose the tax rates for you or if you are going to use a custom tax rate. Amazon has all of the updated tax rates for all states, counties and cities so they will collect the correct amount for you. However, if for some reason you want collect a flat tax rate in every state you can do so.
I would personally let Amazon control the tax rates for you but, it’s up to you! Once you have your product tax code ready and know if you are letting Amazon control the tax rate or if you are doing a custom rate, then you are ready to move on!
Step 6: We will now fill out the tax settings form(which is on the same page as Step 5). You should be looking at a page that looks like the one below:
I know this looks very daunting but, it is actually extremely easy thanks to a nifty little chart that Taxjar has put together. Before we get to this, we first need to tell Amazon what your product tax code is.
Choose the correct tax code from the drop down menu. For me, I would choose the “A_GEN_TAX” code from the menu.
Step 7: Next, we are going to fill out the tax settings for each of the states that you want to collect taxes in. Before we make any modifications to the chart, we first need to look at Taxjar’s FBA State Tax Chart to help us determine the changes we need to make based on each state.
This chart has every single state on it and will tell you exactly what boxes you need to check within Amazon to make sure you are collecting the taxes properly within each state.
For this example, I will be to collecting taxes within Washington state since that is my home state. What I would need to do is find Washington on the Taxjar chart and copy exactly what they have over to Amazon.
Since Washington is my home state, I would use the settings from “FBA living in state” row. If you lived outside of Washington but wanted to collect taxes then you would use the settings from “FBA living out-of-state”.
The first four boxes are checked on the chart so I would do the same within Amazon.
I would also input my business registration number into the box. You will only have one of these numbers once you register your business within that state and get a sales permit.
Now, we need to make a couple more changes within Amazon before we are done. We need to change the settings for Shipping tax and Gift Wrapping tax. Luckily, Taxjar helps us out there too!
The first an last box are checked in this section so I would do the same in Amazon:
Since I am only setting up the tax collection settings for one state, Washington, I am finished. However, you would go through the same exact process for all of the states that you wanted to start collecting taxes in. Just mimic the settings from Taxjar’s FBA State Tax Settings chart into Amazon.
Step 8: Make sure that you have all of the correct boxes checked, your business registration number filled in and then don’t forgot to check the very bottom box that confirms that everything you entered is correct.
Click on “Review Changes” and then you will be taken to another page where you will review all of the settings and then click “Finish”.
Congrats, you just finished setting up the tax collection service within Amazon!
All Tax Collected = Pass-Through Tax
The tax that Amazon will collect for you considered a pass-through tax. This means that the money you get from charging the buyers sales tax is not allowed to be considered profit for your business.
Instead, the money you collect with sales tax should “pass-through” you right to the appropriate state, county or city. For example, if I collected $100 from Amazon for sales tax charged to buyers within Washington then I would need to pay all $100 to Washington state for the tax. I don’t get to keep any of this money for myself.
How to Pay Sales Tax
This is the last step. We have already established nexus, determined what states we want to pay taxes in and setup Amazon so that they will now collect taxes for us. The only thing left to do is pay the correct amount of sales tax to the correct states, counties and cities.
File for a Sales Permit
Before you can pay OR collect taxes within a state, you will first need to register for sales permit within each state you wish to collect in. Collecting taxes in states without a sales permit is against the law, so make sure you have a permit before you start collecting taxes!
The process to get a sales permit will vary with each state, however, most states allow you to do everything online and the process won’t take more than a couple of days. It is usually pretty cheap to file for a sales permit as well.
I am not going to explain how to file for a sales permit in each state in this post, but you can actually check out an awesome resource here that will explain the process for each state.
Once you file for a sales permit you will be giving a business regurgitation number that you will use when setting up the Amazon tax collection service.
Determine the Amount of Sales Tax Owed
Next, we will need to determine how much sales tax is owed in each state. The way that I go about this is I hook up my Amazon Seller Central account to Taxjar and they handle the rest. They will import all of my past sales and calculate exactly how much I owe in each state as well as how much I owe in specific counties and cities within states.
Take a look at what my Taxjar dashboard looks like below:
They compile all of the states that I have nexus in and tell me how much I owe in each state. This makes it very easy to know exactly how much I owe in each state.
How to Pay Sales Tax
Now it’s time to actually PAY the states their tax we owe them. In the section above we figured out how much we owe and now we are going to pay that amount to each state.
This the is the route that I took for paying my sales tax within Washington for 2015. I sent my accountant a spreadsheet of all of my sales that I made within Washington state in 2015 and she handled the filing of the taxes with the state.
My accountant asked for a detailed breakdown of all of the sales in Washington all the way down to the sales earned in each county/city. All I did was export the data from Taxjar and send it to her, that was all she needed from me.
Below is where I got this info for the sales tax in each city and county of Washington.
This was pretty easy and didn’t take much work or effort on my part. Although, I did have to pay my accountant to do this for me.
If you want to do things yourself you can file with each state yourself and do your own taxes. I don’t know if manually doing it is the best option for first time sellers but, if you think you can do it then go for it!
The process for filing sales tax will differ in each state but if you google “your state” + “how to file sales tax” you should find some helpful guides. Most states allow you to file online as well so you can do them from the comfort of your own home!
Taxjar makes it very easy to file your sales tax within each state. Within your Taxjar account you can auto file the sales tax returns and since they have already calculated how much you owe in each state, there isn’t a chance of under or overpaying your taxes.
This is really handy and I will be using this method of paying my sales tax in states other than my home state of Washington.
Each state has their own deadline for when you should file your tax return so make sure you pay close attention to this and don’t miss it! If you do, you will have to pay a fee. As you start to collect and pay taxes in more state there will be a lot more deadlines you will need to remember so make sure you keep track of everything.
Quick Recap of the Tax Process
I have detailed each step of the tax process for Amazon sellers above but I will do a quick recap as a summary.
1. Determine what States you have Nexus in
You only have to pay sales tax in the states where you have nexus which for us Amazon sellers would be your home state, the states where your employees are located as well as the states where your inventory is stored. The term “significant nexus” is not very clear so you have to determine what you think would be considered “significant”.
2. Find the Warehouses where your Inventory has Been Stored
I discusses two different ways to accomplish this. Either through Amazon or with the help of Taxjar.
3. Determine what States you want to Collect and Pay Taxes in
You should first and foremost collect and file in your home state. After that, it comes down to risk tolerance. You can choose not to pay sales tax in other states but the more taxes you owe the more risk you will have until you pay them.
I would suggest filing in your home state as well as the top 2-3 other states that have the highest amount of taxes due. This is the best way to start but at some point it would be smart to file and collect taxes in ALL of the states where you have nexus.
4. Collect Sales Tax
Amazon will help us with this. You will need to setup the tax collection service within Amazon for this to take affect. I did a step by step guide earlier in this post, but you can also watch the video below:
5. File for a Sales Permit
Before you can start collecting and paying taxes, you will first need to get a sales permit in each of the states.
6. Determine the Amount of Tax Owed
When you hookup your Amazon Seller Account to Taxjar they will do this for you. They will let you know how much you owe in each state, county and city. They make it very easy to know the exact amount owed without any manual work from you.
7. Pay the Sales Tax
You have three options when it comes to the different ways you can pay the sales tax:
- Use an Accountant
- Manually file
- Use a service such as Taxjar
I personally used an accountant for my 2015 taxes but will be using Taxjar moving forward!
8. Stay up to Date with the Deadlines
You are good to go from here on out! Just make sure to remember the tax deadlines. Also, you will want to continue to file in more states for a sales permit as your business grows. Aside from that, you have pretty much done all of the handwork and not all you have to do is maintain it.
I know there are a lot of international sellers out there that are probably wondering what the heck they do with sales tax since they don’t live in the US.
Here is the answer: You do everything the exact same!
You will have to do all of the things I have talked about in this article. That means paying sales tax in any state where your business has nexus. The only difference when it comes to being an international seller is that you ALSO have to pay your home country’s tax, if you have one.
So you will have to pay tax in the United States(assuming you are selling here) as well as tax in your home country. I am not an expert in tax or international tax, so I do not know all of the details for international sellers.
All I know for sure is that anyone who sells in the United States has to pay taxes, it doesn’t matter where you are located.
Have More Questions?
I know there are probably questions that popped into your head at some point while you were reading this article or an area that I didn’t cover. If this is the case, you have a couple of options.
One option is that you could leave a comment below and ask your question. I will try my best to give you an educated answer to help you out.
Another option is that you can post your question in our Facebook group where over 3,000 members can give you some advice.
The other option is you can check out a couple of really good resources on this topic. The ones that I would recommend are below:
Summing things up!
I know that taxes can be super confusing and I tried my best to boil all of the information down into a guide that could easily be understood and implemented. I am sure there are certain details that I accidentally left out and that is why at the beginning of the article I stated that I was NOT an tax expert by any means.
I just wanted to share all of the info that I have learned with you all and hopefully shed some light on this topic. Thank you all for reading and if you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.