So, you need to know about sales tax in The Tar Heel State. Look no further!
Whether you’ve fully set up shop in North Carolina, or simply ship there once in a while, it’s important you know whether your business is liable to their sales taxes. This guide will tell you everything you need to know, plus direct you to the right places for handling any sales tax responsibility you may have.
What’s taxable in North Carolina?
Services include professional services provided by lawyers, architects, landscapers, etc. The definition can be pretty wide, and many exemptions can apply. Your best bet would be to check with North Carolina Department of Revenue to confirm your service is even taxable.
Tangible products, as you might guess, are physical items. North Carolina taxes most tangible products, but there can be exemptions! To be absolutely clear about which products are subject to sales tax, and which are exempt, check North Carolina Department of Revenue.
Digital products are goods that are delivered or accessed electronically, usually through the internet. Media streaming services and eBooks usually fall into this category, too, but rules can vary. Check North Carolina Department of Revenue website to be sure.
Do you have nexus in North Carolina?
The word “nexus” refers to a commercial connection in the state. Nexus determines the following questions for a state tax agency: Do you do business here, what kind, and how much? And when you do have nexus, that means you’re obligated to collect tax on your sales there.
So the first question for you to answer is whether you have nexus in North Carolina.
You probably have nexus in North Carolina if any of the following points describe your business:
- A physical presence in North Carolina: a store, an office, a warehouse or distribution center, storage space, you, an employee, a representative, etc.
- Any affiliate businesses or individuals in the North Carolina, which generate sales.
- Online ads or links on a North Carolina-based website, which channels potential customers and new business.
- A significant amount of sales in North Carolina within twelve months. *
* This is called an economic nexus, a sales tax nexus determined by economic activity, i.e. - the amount of sales you make in a particular state. Any kind of economic activity could trigger the nexus, once your total sales reach a certain threshold amount.
The threshold in North Carolina is $100,000 in annual sales or 200 separate sales transactions, whichever your business reaches first. To learn more about how this works, check out the Ultimate Guide to US Economic Nexus.
How to register for sales tax in North Carolina
Okay, so you have nexus! Now what?
The next crucial step in complying with North Carolina sales tax is to register for a sales tax permit. It’s actually illegal to collect tax without a permit. So to get all your ducks in a row, start with tax registration first.
You can find directions about how to register in North Carolina on their Department of Revenue website.
When registering for sales tax, you should have at least the following information at hand:
- Your personal contact info
- Your business contact info
- Social security number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Business entity (sole-proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, etc.)
- Bank account info (account number and routing number) where you’ll deposit the collected sales tax
How to collect sales tax in North Carolina
Now it’s time to tackle the intricate stuff! Tax rates can vary based on the location of your business and the location of your customer, plus the levels of sales tax that apply in those specific locations.
The state-wide sales tax in North Carolina is 4.75%.
There are additional levels of sales tax at local jurisdictions, too.
North Carolina has a destination-based sales tax system, * so you have to pay attention to the varying tax rates across the state. Charge the tax rate of the buyer’s address, as that’s the destination of your product or service.
* Important to note for remote sellers: While this is generally true for North Carolina, some state have peculiar rules about tax rates for remote sellers. Contact the state’s Department of Revenue to be sure.
Sales tax on shipping charges in North Carolina
North Carolina does apply sales tax to shipping costs. The rule of thumb is that if what you’re selling is subject to tax, then the shipping charges are also subject to tax. (And vice versa is true: If the item being shipped is not subject to sales tax, neither are the shipping charges.)
If you happen to be shipping products that are both taxable and nontaxable, then shipping charges for the entire shipment are subject to tax.
When to file taxes in North Carolina
When you register for sales tax, North Carolina will assign you a certain filing frequency. You’ll be asked to file and pay sales tax either monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Usually the frequency they choose is based on the amount of sales tax you collect from buyers in North Carolina. High-revenue businesses file more frequently than lower volume businesses, for example.
North Carolina sales tax returns are due on the 20th day of the month following the reporting period. If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, then your sales tax filing is generally due the next business day.
How to file taxes in North Carolina
When tax time rolls around in North Carolina, whether it’s monthly or annually, you must do three things:
- Calculate how much sales tax you owe
- File a sales tax return
- Make a payment
North Carolina requires that any seller with a sales tax permit file a sales tax return on your due date, even if you don’t have any sales tax to report or pay. Even if you didn’t make a single sale in North Carolina during the reporting period, you should must do a “zero tax filing.”
Other North Carolina tax info
If you miss a filing or payment deadline, certain penalties can apply. Such a pain! Check the state’s website for up-to-date penalty fees.
On a brighter note, you could be eligible for sales tax discounts in North Carolina! Usually these discounts are designed to save you a bit of money, as a reward for complying with the sales tax system. Check the state’s website for up-to-date discount policies.
Sales Tax Holidays
One final tricky aspect about North Carolina sales tax are the sales tax holidays. During these days of the year, you aren’t required to charge sales tax, and buyers will expect to not be charged. Check the state’s website for current sales tax holidays.