A 1992 Supreme Court decision (the Quill v. N. Dakota case) attempted to address the issue of internet transactions. According to the Tax Foundation, the Quill decision said that a business "must have a physical presence in a state in order to require the collection of sales or use tax for purchases made by in-state customers." This physical presence is called a tax nexus. The tax nexus concept originally meant a physical building, office, warehouse, retail store, or employees selling in the state.
Even so, not everyone is thrilled. "As a small-business owner, the ruling signifies additional risk, uncertainty, cost, and a likely chill on small to mid-size e-commerce business formation, growth, and hiring," says Stephen Culp, the founder and chairman of Smart Furniture. The Chattanooga-based online furniture retailer declined to disclose its annual revenue, though it notes that sales are in the tens of millions, with fewer than 50 full-time employees.
Online marketing can also be crowded and competitive. Although the opportunities to provide goods and services in both local and far-reaching markets is empowering, the competition can be significant. Companies investing in online marketing may find visitors’ attention is difficult to capture due to the number of business also marketing their products and services online. Marketers must develop a balance of building a unique value proposition and brand voice as they test and build marketing campaigns on various channels.
If your company sells canned (noncustom) software programs to customers who download them from a server, those sales are generally not subject to tax. However, if you also provide your customers with a backup copy on a CD-ROM, the entire transaction is taxable. Similarly, if you transmit a stock (noncustom) database to your customer over the Internet and also provide a printed copy of the contents, the entire sale is subject to tax. For more information regarding the sale of computer programs and data processing services, you may wish to obtain a copy of Regulation 1502, Computers, Programs, and Data Processing.
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