Sign Up for Discounts
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Follow us on Facebook
    Controller Library Value Pack
    CFO Library Value Pack
    Accounting Standards Library

    Home >> Accounts Receivable and Bad Debt Topics

     

    Accounting for Sales Taxes


    Overview of Sales Taxes

    You are required to charge customers a sales tax on certain types of sales transactions if you have nexus in the territory of a government entity that charges the sales tax. Nexus is the concept that you are doing business in an area if you have a place of business there, use your own vehicles to transport goods to customers, or (in some cases) have employees situated or living there. Having nexus can result in multiple overlapping sales taxes.

    For example, a company might have to charge customers the sales tax of the city in which they are located, as well as the county sales tax and the state sales tax. If the company does not have nexus where a customer is located, then the company does not have to charge a sales tax to the customer; instead, the customer is supposed to self-report a use tax to its local government.

    All accounting software includes a billing feature that allows you to include the sales tax at the bottom of each invoice, after the subtotal of line items billed. When you charge customers the sales tax, you eventually collect it and then remit it to the state government, which in turn pays it out to the various local governments.

    Accounting for Sales Taxes

    When you bill a customer for sales taxes, the journal entry is a debit to the accounts receivable asset for the entire amount of the invoice, a credit to the sales account for that portion of the invoice attributable to goods or services billed, and a credit to the sales tax liability account for the amount of sales taxes billed.

    At the end of the month (or longer, depending on your remittance arrangement), you fill out a sales tax remittance form that itemizes sales and sales taxes, and send the government the amount of the sales tax recorded in the sales tax liability account. This remittance may take place before the customer has paid you for the sales tax.

    When the customer pays you for the invoice, you debit the cash account for the amount of the payment and credit the accounts receivable account.

    What if the customer does not pay the sales tax portion of the invoice? In that case, you issue a credit memo that reverses the amount of the sales tax liability account (and which is also a reduction of the accounts receivable asset account). It is quite likely that you will have already remitted this sales tax to the government, so the customer's non-payment becomes a reduction in your next sales tax remittance to the government.

    Example of Sales Tax Accounting

    ABC International issues an invoice to Beta Corporation for $1,000 of goods delivered, on which there is a seven percent sales tax. The entry is:


    Debit Credit
    Accounts receivable
    1,070
         Sales
      1,000
         Sales tax liability

    70


    Following the end of the month, ABC remits the sales taxes withheld to the state government. The entry is:


    Debit Credit
    Sales tax liability
    70
         Cash

    70


    Later in the following month, the customer pays the full amount of the invoice. The entry is:


    Debit Credit
    Cash
    1,070
         Accounts receivable

    1,070


    Other Issues

    When a company bills its customers for sales taxes, those sales taxes are not an expense to the company; they are an expense to the customers. From the company's perspective, these sales tax billings are liabilities to the local government until remitted.

    It is quite common to have a separate sales tax liability account for each state. If a company operates in multiple states, having a separate account for the sales taxes collected for each one makes it much easier to make remittances. It also reduces the work required to justify the company's remittances in the event of a sales tax audit.

    Related Topics

    Accounts receivable accounting
    What are trade receivables?
    What is a cash discount?
    What is a trade discount?
    What is invoice discounting?