If you have a business presence in a state, you must register with that state for tax purposes. Examples of business presence (sometimes referred to as nexus) include:
If you sell items to customers in another state, but do not have nexus, you do not have to collect sales tax on the items you sell to them. However, your customers are responsible for paying use tax on the items when they receive them.
Use tax is due on the use of items that are brought into the state untaxed. It complements the state sales tax and is charged at the same rate. Use tax applies to purchases from sources such as mail order catalogs, the Internet, television shopping networks, auctions, and toll-free shopping services. The use tax is also due on items bought during out-of-state travel, when the merchandise is shipped to the individual's home state.
We encourage businesses to voluntarily register with their market states to collect sales tax from out-of-state customers. If you voluntarily register to collect tax, you can help prevent your customers from receiving a bill from another state for use tax, penalty, and interest.
The Southeastern Association of Tax Administrators (SEATA) exchanges information to help ensure transactions are taxed fairly across state boundaries. Member states collect and exchange audited sales and purchases information for other member states. Customers who are identified through audit verification will be billed for use tax, penalties, and interest.
The SEATA member states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
When a state revenue agency discovers your customer’s untaxed purchase, it will bill the customer for the use tax, penalty, and interest. Use tax is also due when the purchaser pays sales tax, but the item is brought into a state with a higher rate. For example, if you charge sales tax at Florida’s rate of 6 percent, but the customer lives in a state with a higher rate, that state can bill your customer for the difference.
When your customer receives a bill, a dispute could arise over whose responsibility it is to collect the tax. Even though you may not be technically liable, you provide a service to your customers when you voluntarily register and collect tax. They do not have to worry about paying tax to the other state.
The member states exchange information on businesses and their interstate transactions. If you make sales into a member state and do not register, that state could audit you. If your business presence is established in any other member states, you may be liable for all unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest. If you do not have a business presence in a state and do not voluntarily register to collect the tax, your customers could be billed for the use tax, penalty, and interest on their purchases.
Registration alone does not make you liable for past uncollected sales tax assuming you did not have a business presence in the state or collect tax on the state's behalf. If you had a business presence in the state, you are liable for past taxes. If you have a past tax liability in your market states, you should make a voluntary disclosure. Contact the revenue agency in each of your market states for more details.
Contact the revenue agency in each of your market states for information and registration forms. The SEATA Internet site has more information, including links to the agencies.