Friday, June 12, 2009

Get those certificates

Novell Stuff

I had a woman in my class once who told me about her experiences in getting resale certificates. She didn't bother.

She worked for a toy manufacturer. And she worked for the distribution division. She sold only to resellers and distributors. There was a sister company who did sell to the end user through their web page and catalogs. But it was a separate company, separate corporation, separate facility, separate everything except products sold and the parent company.

Her company got audited by, we'll say*, Illinois. During the audit, the auditor asked about resale certificates for all of her sales into Illinois. She said, "We don't get them. Our business model is only to sell to retail stores and distributors. None of our customers buy for end use. Talk to our sister company about that. We don't need resale certificates." The auditor said that she did and pointed out the law. But he was nice enough to give her 60 days to get them (not all states are required to provide this grace period).

So she began to work on getting those certificates. And 60 days later, she still owed Illinois $50,000 for the sellers' use taxes she had failed to charge her Illinois customers. Not because her customers refused to provide the certificates. Her company was big enough to demand and get those certificates. She owed money because some of those customers had evaporated. You see, the retail toy business is pretty volatile. Retailers come and go. She owed taxes on the ones that had "gone." If they're gone, she's not going to be able to get a resale certificate.

But if she had simply done what she was supposed to do, she would have owed nothing.

The moral of the story is very simple: get the resale certificate. Get it before you even ship the goods, because that is when you've got leverage over the customer. Don't wait until later or assume the sales rep will get it. You get it now. Here's a procedure you may want to use.

Then you won't have to argue with your customers or run the risk of them going out of business on you.

PS...before you go all notes on some of your customers, you should read these articles about drop ships. And here is much more information on all forms of exemption certificates.

Sales Tax Guy

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*When I use "we'll say", that means I making it up.

Picture note: The toys shown don't represent the company I'm talking about. It's just a picture of toys. You can see it bigger here.

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