A Canadian Business Guide to U.S. State and Local Tax Laws

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Operating in the U.S. as a Canadian Business

Navigating U.S. state and local tax laws can present several challenges due to the complexity and variability of regulations across different jurisdictions. Each state and locality has its own regulations, exemptions, and filing requirements. This diversity can make it difficult for businesses to ensure compliance, especially if they operate in multiple states across the country.

Canadian businesses can be subject to U.S. state and local tax sales & use tax laws under certain circumstances. If your business has a permanent establishment, which refers to a fixed place of business through which it carries out its activities, such as an office, branch, factory, or construction site, it may be subject to specific state and local tax sales & use tax laws. The same applies for businesses that generate certain types of income from U.S. sources even if the business does not have a permanent establishment in the U.S.

Whether you are a business owner or a finance professional, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips to ensure compliance with U.S. state and local sales & use tax laws.

Understanding Nexus

The first step of determining a business’s state sales & use tax filing footprint is uncovering its Nexus status in each state. Physical and economic nexus are two key concepts used to determine whether a business has sufficient presence in a state to be subject to that state’s sales & use tax laws.

Physical Presence
Physical nexus refers to a tangible presence or connection that a business has in a state. This could include having a physical location such as an office, store, warehouse, or other facilities within the state.
Other factors that may establish physical nexus include having employees, agents, or independent contractors performing services in the state, owning or leasing property in the state, or regularly delivering goods into the state using company-owned vehicles.

Economic Presence
Economic nexus, on the other hand, is based on economic activity or sales volume rather than physical presence. It arises when a business conducts a certain level of economic activity within a state, even if it lacks a physical presence there.

Economic nexus thresholds vary by state and are typically based on the amount of sales revenue, transaction volume, or other measures of economic activity generated by the business within the state over a specified period (e.g., a calendar year). These laws have gained prominence in recent years, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018), which allowed states to impose sales & use tax obligations on out-of-state sellers based solely on economic activity.


US Sales Tax Registration for Canadian Companies

Sales Tax Rates and Product Taxability

Tax rates vary widely across states and localities and can apply to several types of taxes, including income tax, sales tax, property tax, and gross receipts tax. Understanding the applicable tax rates in each jurisdiction is crucial for accurate tax planning and compliance.

Staying informed about product taxability laws is essential to ensure proper tax collection and compliance.

Sales Tax Collection and Remittance

After obtaining a sales tax permit, Canadian businesses are generally required to collect sales tax from customers on taxable transactions within the state.

How We Can Help

Canadian businesses that conduct business activities in the U.S. must carefully consider their sales & use tax obligations and work to ensure compliance with U.S. state and local tax laws. Consulting with advisors who are knowledgeable about cross-border taxation can help businesses navigate the complexities of U.S. tax laws and mitigate potential tax liabilities. Source Advisors is dedicated to helping businesses navigate the complex landscape of state and local taxes, ensuring that no state tax is overpaid in all relevant jurisdictions.


Do I need to collect U.S. sales tax if my Canadian business sells online to U.S. customers?

The laws regarding sales tax collection for Canadian businesses selling online to U.S. customers can vary based on several factors, including the concept of economic nexus and the specific laws of individual states.

  • Given the complexity of U.S. sales tax laws and the potential implications for your Canadian business, it is advisable to consult with a tax advisor or professional who is knowledgeable about cross-border taxation and U.S. sales tax requirements.
What is economic nexus for U.S. sales tax and how does it apply to Canadian businesses?
How do I register for a U.S. sales tax permit as a Canadian company?
  1. Determine Nexus: Before registering for a sales tax permit, determine whether your Canadian company has nexus (i.e., a sufficient connection) with any U.S. state that imposes sales tax.
  2. Identify States: Identify the states where your Canadian company has nexus and needs to register for a sales tax permit.
  3. Gather Information: Collect the necessary information and documents required for the registration process.
  4. Contact State Tax Authority: Contact each state’s Department of Revenue or equivalent tax authority to obtain information about the sales tax registration process.
  5. Complete Registration: Follow the instructions provided by the state tax authority to complete the sales tax registration process.
  6. Wait for Approval: After submitting your sales tax registration application, wait for the state tax authority to process your application and issue your sales tax permit.
  7. Receive Sales Tax Permit: Once your application is approved, you will receive your sales tax permit from the state tax authority.
  8. Maintain Compliance: After obtaining your sales tax permit, ensure ongoing compliance with the sales tax laws of each state where you are registered.

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