Friday, November 08, 2013

Do I have to get exemption certificates in states where I don't have nexus?

Drawbridges and Chicago from 18th Street
I get this question every once in a while - so hey, it's a blog entry!

The situation is that you're selling something taxable to a customer in state A.  You're in state H.  Do you have to get an exemption certificate from them when you don't have nexus? 

It depends.

1.  How sure are you that you don't have nexus?  Nexus situations can change.  You may have decided in 2010 that you don't have nexus in state A, but in the meantime, those jerks in sales have made a couple of big sales there, sent in a crew of installers, made arrangements with a repair firm to provide service, and the VP of sales has been visiting every couple of months.

If you haven't figured it out, you now have nexus in state A.  But if you're basing your assumption on the decision you made in 2010, you're gonna be in trouble.

It would sure be nice to have that exemption certificate.

2.  How much of a hassle is it to get the certificates?  If your customer in state A is practically begging you to take his certificate, then, oh, what the hell, take it.

On the other hand, if your customer is one of those pain-in-the-butt mega-retailers who refuse to cough up the resale certificate, then, maybe you want to take the chance.

So the two factors to consider are your confidence level in whether or not you have nexus balanced against the hassles of getting certificates. 

Another thing to consider is that Congress may eventually pass something that looks like the Marketplace Fairness Act.  That means that if you're a larger company*, you'll eventually be required to collect taxes in all states, regardless of whether or not you have nexus.  So you'll need to be getting certificates from all the states anyway.  But this is probably a couple of years off (I hope).

Frankly, putting on my strict, no-risk controller's hat, I'd establish a policy that we get exemption certificates from everyone.  That way if that dang sales guy goes behind my back to state M, I'm covered. 

*part of the argument is what "large" means

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