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The government imposes sales tax on the sale of goods and services, and retailers collect it at the point of sale and pass it on to the government. Businesses are liable for state taxes if they reside in one that has the obligation. Different jurisdictions charge different sales taxes, which often overlap. Sales taxes are similar to use taxes, which apply to residents who have purchased items outside their jurisdiction. They are usually the same rate as sales taxes but are more difficult to implement. Therefore, they are only geared toward large purchases of tangible goods. Sales tax is crucial since it helps fund and maintains various things in local communities. 

What is a Sales Tax? 

A sales tax is a fee that is paid to the government when specified goods and services are sold. It applies to the purchase of goods and services for consumers and the sale of goods and services for businesses. Sales tax is a consumption tax since it taxes people for spending money. It is also an indirect tax since it is not directly paid to the government like income tax. Retailers collect sales taxes from consumers and remit them to the appropriate government entity. Sales of state taxes account for the largest source of revenue for states throughout the country.

What is the importance of Sales Tax? 

Sales tax revenue has recently made up nearly 50% of the total tax revenue collected in states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. These levels are within the typical range of most states, proving how vital sales tax collection is regarding state governments and systems functioning. While many states have income taxes, the federal government also collects this type of tax. There is pressure not to raise state income taxes too much for various reasons. Therefore, states are left with increased sales tax rates as an alternative source of revenue. Also, selling a sales tax increase is easier than an income tax increase. No one likes the possibility of taxes going up. But paying a few cents more on purchases to finance important projects is more ideal than paying the state extra money out of people’s paychecks. 

Who should pay Sales Tax? 

The seller is required to cover sales taxes or collect them. Unless you live in a state that does not impose them, customers have experience paying sales taxes. Each retail sale is considered taxable. However, some states may allow exceptions for specific items or services for various reasons. In these cases, the purchaser will likely have to establish the right to claim the exception. In recent years, more states have expanded sales tax to include leasing transactions and some services. 

Why do we pay Sales Tax? 

Sales tax is used to pay for state and local budget items such as schools, roads, and fire departments. It is a tax on retail purchases. Many areas need sales tax to fund their budgets, so it plays a significant role in helping things function. Sales tax is a consumption tax obtained when consumers buy products. Depending on your state, you can pay sales tax at different rates and levels. Each state sets its own laws and regulations regarding payments, so ensure you know how your state operates. 

How to pay Sales Taxes? 

It may seem complicated to learn how to pay state taxes initially. Sales tax regulations constantly change, and tracking things can be a hassle. By understanding the basic rules of sales taxes and how to pay them, you can confidently move forward with your business. 

To pay sales taxes, follow these steps.

  1. First, check with your state to see when you have to pay the sales taxes you collected. Paying by the dues date is important. 
  2. Second, the frequency of your payment depends on the volume of your sales. Examine this data to better understand how often you might have to pay. 
  3. Third, in most states, you must pay monthly if you have a high volume of sales. But paying quarterly is also acceptable. Ensure you are prepared for the frequency of payments by maintaining accurate records. 
  4. Fourth, pay on time to avoid fines and penalties for late payments. 

When is the Sales Tax collected? 

Sales tax is collected at the time of a transaction. Sales tax is a consumer tax, so businesses have to charge the sales tax amount at the time of purchase. Creating a process to collect and pay state taxes will benefit you if you are in a sales-tax state. You will also be prepared to file sales tax returns periodically. Remember, no sales tax will be charged if your business sells in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon. Therefore, you will not have to worry about setting up a process.

How is Sales Tax collected? 

Sales tax is collected from buyers by sellers, who then forward it to the state. Business owners are expected to collect, report, and pay sales tax on almost everything sold to customers in a state where their business has a physical presence. First, you will need a license or seller’s permit from your state to collect sales tax. After this step, you must keep track of sales transactions and taxes collected to file a return. Then, you must pay taxes to the state after filing the return. Filings and payments can be made monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on the number of your sales.

What is Sales Tax used for? 

Sales tax is used to pay for state and local budget items (schools, roads, and fire departments). Many areas rely on sales tax to fund their budgets, so they are committed to collecting all the sales tax they are owed. Sales tax is a consumption tax usually charged on the sale of products from retailers to individual consumers. The IRS is not involved with sales tax since it is governed at the state level in the United States. Each state sets its own sales tax rates and makes its own tax laws and rules. Therefore, you may pay sales tax at different rates or sales tax on various items (groceries and clothes). 

What are the types of Sales Tax? 

Sales taxes are in various forms. Based on the laws of the state or the country being looked at, they are also applied differently. Some sales taxes are itemized at the point of sale, some are included in the price of goods, and others are applied at increasing rates at different production levels. Sales tax is usually calculated as a percentage of an item amount, except for some specific goods and services. Identifying the different types of sales tax will help you follow state obligations and evaluate your purchasing decisions.

  • Sales Tax: If you own a business, you must collect sales tax at the point of sale. This does not occur only when you live in one of the five states that do not charge a state sales tax. To legally collect taxes for your in-state businesses, you must register for a sales permit. Also, if you sell and ship goods to other states, you need to know the sales tax requirements for those states. Otherwise, you will be personally liable for failing to collect tax. 
  • Use Tax: Use tax is applied to goods and services you purchase without paying sales tax. Some purchases that require use tax are buying from a retailer in another state with no sales tax requirement and a seller who is not authorized to collect sales. Mail-order catalogs on the internet also require use tax. States are allowed to tax only within their borders, so businesses must collect and remit use taxes. 
  • Excise Tax: Federal or state authorities impose consumer exercise tax. It is usually included in the cost of certain goods and services. Alcohol, tobacco, and gasoline are some products considered unnecessary for survival, often including excise tax. It raises the price of items and provides extra revenue for community projects and programs while trying to reduce consumption. 
  • Exemptions: Most states deem things such as food items and prescription medication necessary for survival. They are exempt from sale tax or taxed at a lower rate. Some states handled tax exemptions as a refund of sales taxes collected through sales, but others allow you to keep a portion of the sale taxes as a service fee. 

How to record Sales Tax Collected? 

When you sell goods to customers, you will likely collect and remit sales tax to the government. Understanding how to record these tax collections and payments in accounting books is crucial. You can stay organized and maintain accurate records when you know how to record everything. Sellers are in charge of collecting sales tax, which is accomplished through journal entries. Your sales tax journal entries will rely on whether you collected sales tax from customers or paid sales tax to vendors. 

To record sales tax collected, follow this process.

  1. First, when a customer is billed for sales taxes, the journal entry is a debit to the accounts receivable asset for the entire amount of an invoice.
  2. Second, the journal entry is also credited to the sales account for that portion of the invoice (goods or services billed) and to the sales tax liability account for the amount of sales taxes billed. 
  3. Third, at the end of the month, fill out a sales tax remittance form that itemizes sales and sales taxes. Depending on your remittance arrangement, you may have to wait longer than the end of the month.
  4. Fourth, send the government the amount of sales tax recorded in the sales tax liability account. The remittance may occur before the customer has paid the related invoice. 
  5. Fifth, once the customer pays the invoice, debit the cash account for the amount of the payment and credit the accounts receivable account.

How to calculate Sales Tax? 

It is not hard to calculate sales tax, but it can seem complicated to figure out the exact tax rate. Since it varies by each state and purchase amount, you must pay close attention when calculating. Generally, sales tax is about 4% to 8% of the item’s retail price. It is imposed when consumers check out of brick-and-mortar stores, online retailers, and restaurants. To calculate sales tax correctly, you have to follow a process.

The following steps can help you calculate sales tax.

  1. First, multiply the cost of an item by sales tax in a decimal format. 
  2. Second, find the total price found on receipts by adding the sales tax amount to the cost of the item you are buying.
  3. Third, to gauge how much an item sold for and how much tax was paid on it, you have to have the sales tax rate in decimal form. Then, divide the total amount by the sales tax rate. 
  4. Fourth, you should see the item’s price as a result. Remember that all sales taxes are in percentage format but can be transferred to decimals for calculation.

Is Tax calculated on the selling price? 

Yes, tax is collected on the selling price. Businesses collect tax when customers purchase taxable goods and services, and state and local governments require businesses to do that. Then, governments use the money they receive from sales tax to fund public schools, emergency services, healthcare, road construction, maintenance, and public transportation. By staying informed on state and local taxes, companies can ensure they charge customers the right amount. Also, it is easier for employees to explain why their company collects tax to customers who may not understand it.

What is the difference between Sales Tax and VAT? 

Sales tax and VAT are types of indirect tax. Indirect tax is a tax collected by a seller who charges buyers at the time of purchase and then pays or remits the tax to the government, which happens on the buyer’s behalf. However, sales tax is collected by the retailer when the final sale in the supply chain is reached. End consumers pay sales tax when they purchase goods and services. Until a sale is made to the final customer, sales tax is not collected, and tax jurisdictions will not get tax revenue. In contrast, VAT is obtained by all sellers in each stage of the supply chain. Suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers all collect VAT on taxable sales. Also, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and end consumers all pay VAT on their purchases. Businesses have to track and document the VAT they pay on purchases, or they will not receive a credit for the VAT paid on their tax return. Additionally, tax jurisdictions receive tax revenue throughout the entire supply chain.