US Sales Tax For Foreign Companies – When Do They Need To Pay?

The ever-changing rates of sales tax jurisdictions and a difficult system to determine what is and what is not taxable makes US tax compliance one of the most complex in the world. The US sales tax system often has American companies scratching their head but foreign companies are even less familiar with the procedures. In what way are out-of-country businesses required to comply with sales tax on sales made in the US?

A confusing aspect for many foreign retailers is the fact that the United States does not recognize bi-lateral tax treaties. This means that even if the foreign company is not subject to US Federal income tax they could still be required to pay sales tax depending on the policies of local state governments.

Foreign Sales Tax Liability – A Question Of Nexus

Foreign companies must comply with sales tax in much the same manner US based remote businesses. Sales tax liability is a question of nexus, or simply put “physical presence,” and many business actions can contribute to the creation of nexus. While nexus establishing actions differ from state to state common examples are having a storefront, warehouse, or traveling representatives. Businesses, both in the US and outside our borders, are responsible for collecting sales tax in the states in which they have established nexus.

The Marketplace Fairness Act And Liability

For several years, the MFA has been brought up by legislators only to be shot down and attempted again at a later time. The MFA places an additional burden on remote sellers by making it so that any seller, no matter where they are located, must collect sales tax on remote sales.

In the event of the Market Fairness Act or a similar bill becoming law, it will be more difficult for international sellers to neglect sales tax liabilities, because reports from U.S. Customs make it easier for state and local taxing authorities to determine what shipments are entering their jurisdictions.

However, the burden of enforcing compliance will lie with the state, as it does now. International sellers who choose to ignore their sales tax responsibilities can be subject to penalties such as liens, seized inventories, and even legal pursuit in their country of origin’s court system.

Sales Tax DataLink offers an outsourcing program and has resources available that can help you keep track of jurisdiction policies. Whether you choose to handle filing your sales tax yourself or choose to have us do it for you, you know that your returns will be correct. Contact us for a free comprehensive evaluation to test our sales tax software with your own data and see how easy compliance can be.

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