For online retailers, few issues are as confusing and cumbersome as understanding sales tax obligations in various states. Most companies either try to find an automated solution or stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best. In the face of this complexity, the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., which challenges the high court’s 1992 decision in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. If the court sides with South Dakota and overturns Quill, the impact will likely be significant and, at least in the short run, expose many more sellers to today’s sales tax compliance complexity.
What is Quill and Why Does it Exist?
Much like today, the late 1980s was a time when states were actively seeking ways to get retailers to collect sales tax everywhere. Many states adopted new use tax nexus laws, and a plan developed to find a way to get the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a 1967 decision declaring that physical presence was the constitutional test for sales tax collection. In the early 1990s, Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota’s tax commissioner, filed suit against Quill Corporation, an office supply retailer, to get Quill to collect North Dakota’s use tax on sales made to North Dakota residents. Continue reading
Tips for leveraging technology to reduce busywork, improve productivity, and save money for your business.
When it comes to ecommerce, automation is a solution to many time-consuming tasks that overfill the typical day of an online seller. From a logistical point of view, automation literally moves data from one business system to another. It eliminates the need for manual data entry and saves you time and money to focus on what you do best—selling. But examined from a broader perspective, the benefits of automation can be total game-changers for an online business. For example, automation can help you increase profits and create a marked competitive advantage. There are plenty of companies that provide software for all aspects of your business—your front office sales and marketing and your back-office operations. In this post, we focus on the back-office, specifically operations and accounting.
- Automate order processing. Most successful ecommerce sellers use multiple systems across their business and sell from multiple places—at the very least, on a custom website platform like Shopify or Magento and on a marketplace like eBay or Amazon. This can create operational havoc as data flows through their inventory, shipping, and accounting systems. To get this under control, you want to automate all processing by sending a single, accurate set of order data from inception to the bank account. With automation, you can do all of this with no manual data entry and exactly zero errors. When there are no errors introduced during order processing, correct sales tax is charged, the correct item is chosen, inventory is kept up-to-date across all sales channels, shipping labels are accurate, and tracking information is available immediately to share with the customer.
With manual data entry, when any one of these basic tasks goes awry, the customer’s trust in the seller is lost, sometimes for good. Technology’s role in building consumer trust cannot be understated, according to KPMG’s global report The Truth About Online Consumers: “Regardless of how many attributes a company has that will earn the trust of their customers, not having the right systems in place to protect that trust can be catastrophical.”
- Automate tracking of revenue and expenses. As a multichannel seller, it’s easy to lose sight of the financial performance of your business and keep tabs on all the costs you’re incurring. When marketplaces like Amazon provide bi-weekly settlement reports or platforms like Magento create complicated spreadsheets of your transactions, sellers often find themselves down a rabbit hole of data. Unless you’re planning on getting a bachelor’s degree in data analytics, you’re better off using software that can help you bring data and insights from across all sales channels and systems into one place.
Simply put, automating the tracking of revenue and expenses is key for online sellers who want to know their profit and grow their business. Sound like all sellers? Unless you promptly account for both the money coming in and the money going out—in payment processor fees, marketplaces fees, warehouse fees, fulfillment expenses, and shipping costs—of your business, you’re flying blind. In fact, operating without real-time visibility into operational expenses ensures the financial growth of your business will be stunted, and puts your business at a high risk of failure.
Just click once to settle your accounting!
Making sense of fees and other costs can be a frustrating experience for Amazon sellers. Now a new enhancement to Webgility Unify simplifies accounting for Xero users who sell on Amazon. With Webgility 1-Click Accounting, it’s now fast and easy for sellers to post Amazon Marketplace orders, refunds, expenses, and payments into Xero.
In fact, Unify users can now swiftly reconcile their Xero accounting with their Amazon Settlement Report, eliminating the need for any additional data entry or a separate clearing account. Webgility Unify automatically syncs the Amazon Settlement Report with Xero, making batch reconciliation easy for both sellers and accountants. “Managing a business’ finances from a central dashboard is a far more beautiful experience,” says Steven Larsen, Product Partnerships Director at Xero.
Xero offers an open app ecosystem that gives users an opportunity to select technology that best suits their needs as their company grows. Webgility Unify’s integration with Xero enables small business owners and their advisors to track sales and automate accounting across online marketplaces and ecommerce tools.” Continue reading
Answers to 4 Common Sales Tax Questions
We hear ecommerce sales tax horror stories all the time. In this increasingly complex and changing industry, both new and experienced sellers are often confused about how much sales tax they should charge—or even if they should charge it at all. Let me be clear: collecting sales tax is not optional for ecommerce sellers. If your business has a significant presence, or nexus, in a state that collects sales tax, but you’re not collecting it at the time of sale, you are still liable for tax in that state, which means it comes out of your pocket.
That’s a clear start, but unfortunately, figuring out your local rate just scratches the surface of what you should know about sales tax. There are many variables. Sellers—who are usually not tax experts—are often left wondering if, when, and how much to collect and remit in sales tax. In the most general of terms, if you’re in the business of selling tangible products you may need to register, collect, and remit sales tax. To keep it simple, answers to these questions can help get you started in your sales tax self-assessment.
A simple case for changing the course of your business—and your life—with automation.
These days sellers conduct business through a number of channels—both offline and online. These can include a cash register at a brick-and-mortar location, a selling platform (or store) like Magento or Shopify, a custom website with a shopping cart extension like WooCommerce, on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and even a point of sale tool like Square. So when it comes to accurately inputting all that sales data into inventory, shipping, and accounting systems, life for a multichannel seller gets very complicated very quickly. And the complexity is multiplied tenfold not if, but when, human involvement introduces errors. Typically when sales hit a peak or the business scales in some way, either the repetitive manual entry becomes too much for a busy seller to manage or hiring a bookkeeper becomes too expensive to justify. In fact, the data management has been the undoing of many a burgeoning business.
Either way sellers are conflicted: The ones who handle their own bookkeeping know their time is better spent growing the business with marketing, networking, researching lower-cost vendors, reviewing workflows—the list goes on. And those who pay to outsource data entry and bookkeeping are often left wondering if they’ll ever be free of an expense that scales in tandem with their business. Continue reading