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Managing Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: 5 Considerations When Setting Up Sales Tax

Dec 21, 2023 | USA Accounting

Don’t let withholding taxes for non-resident ecommerce businesses and sales tax confuse you any longer! Take charge of your e-commerce success and bid farewell to tax complexities! Discover how you can successfully manage withholding taxes for non-resident e-commerce businesses in this blog.

Navigating Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: 5 Essential Sales Tax Considerations

Non-resident e-commerce businesses are rapidly growing and expanding to customers all over the world. But as they grow, they must pay attention to tax rules, especially withholding and sales taxes.

Understanding and following these tax regulations are crucial to run their business smoothly and legally. This blog will help manage withholding taxes for non-resident e-commerce businesses especially with USA Accounting providing useful tips for a successful journey in online commerce.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses

What are Withholding Taxes?

Withholding taxes are not exclusive to e-commerce; they apply to various types of income, including dividends, interest, royalties, and more.

For non-resident e-commerce businesses, withholding taxes become relevant when they generate revenue from customers within a specific country. These taxes are typically levied on the gross amount of income before any expenses or deductions.

The Importance of Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses

Complying with withholding tax regulations is of utmost importance for non-resident e-commerce businesses for several reasons. Firstly, failure to comply can lead to severe penalties, adversely affecting the business’s reputation and financial stability.

Secondly, some countries require the customer or payment gateway to withhold the tax, putting the responsibility on them rather than the business itself.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Key Aspects of Withholding Taxes on Revenue

The application of withholding taxes on revenue earned by non-resident businesses varies from country to country. Factors such as the type of income, tax treaties between countries, and the presence of a permanent establishment influence the withholding tax rates and thresholds.

Non-resident e-commerce businesses need to familiarise themselves with the tax laws of each country they operate in.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Withholding Tax Rates and Thresholds

The withholding tax rates can range from a modest percentage to a substantial amount, depending on the country and the nature of the income. Furthermore, some countries may have thresholds that determine whether withholding taxes apply.

For instance, if the income earned falls below a specific amount, the business may be exempt from withholding taxes.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: 5 Considerations in Setting Up Sales Tax

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Registering for Sales Tax

In addition to withholding taxes, non-resident e-commerce businesses must address sales tax obligations in the countries they operate. Sales tax is typically imposed on the end consumer and is subject to specific rules and rates determined by each state or country.

Registering for sales tax is a crucial step to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Sales Tax Collection and Reporting

Once registered, non-resident businesses must collect the appropriate sales tax from their customers and maintain meticulous records. Regular reporting and remittance to the respective tax authorities are necessary to remain compliant with sales tax regulations.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Navigating Nexus for Non-Resident Businesses

Determining the presence of nexus—a significant connection—in a particular state is vital for understanding sales tax obligations. A business with nexus in a state is required to collect and remit sales tax on all taxable transactions within that state.

Understanding nexus rules can help non-resident businesses determine which states they need to register for sales tax.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Evaluating Exemptions and Taxability Rules

Navigating sales tax also involves evaluating exemptions and taxability rules. Some products or services may be exempt from sales tax, while others may be subject to specific tax rates or rules.

Non-resident businesses must know the nuances of each jurisdiction’s tax laws to apply exemptions and taxability rules to their transactions accurately.

Keeping Abreast of Tax Law Changes

Sales tax laws are subject to frequent changes, and non-resident businesses must stay up-to-date with these developments. New legislation, court rulings, or administrative changes can impact sales tax rates, rules, and obligations.

Staying informed through reputable sources and seeking professional advice when necessary can help non-resident businesses adapt to these changes effectively.

Withholding Taxes for Non-Resident Ecommerce Businesses: Managing Withholding Taxes and Sales Tax Compliance

Tax Filing and Payment Procedures

Managing withholding taxes and sales tax compliance involves adhering to specific filing and payment procedures. Timely and accurate tax filings are essential to avoid penalties and maintain good standing with tax authorities.

The Role of Tax Professionals

Given the complexity of international tax regulations, seeking guidance from tax professionals experienced in cross-border transactions is highly advisable.

These experts can assist non-resident e-commerce businesses in navigating the intricacies of withholding taxes and sales tax compliance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do international buyers have to pay sales tax in the US?

Yes, international buyers in the US typically have to pay sales tax when purchasing taxable items and taking possession of goods at the retailer’s location. Unlike US residents eligible for sales tax refunds on goods taken out of the country, non-resident visitors usually do not receive such refunds for sales tax paid on purchases made in the US. 

Do foreign companies have to pay US sales tax?

Yes, foreign companies operating in the United States may have to pay US sales tax if they have a taxable presence, also known as nexus, for state sales tax purposes. Even if they are not subject to federal income tax, the presence of certain activities or physical operations in specific states can trigger sales tax obligations for these foreign companies.

What items are exempt from sales tax in the US?

In the US, some everyday items exempt from sales tax include most groceries, prescription medications, certain medical supplies, and educational materials. Additionally, items purchased for resale, such as wholesale goods, are typically exempt. However, specific exemptions can vary by state, and some states may have unique exemptions for items like clothing, textbooks, and agricultural products.


Managing withholding taxes for non-resident e-commerce businesses and sales tax compliance is crucial as they expand globally. Understanding tax regulations in each operating country and seeking professional advice helps you navigate these complexities confidently.

Check out Sterlinx Global for further accounting, business, and tax advice.

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Accounting for E-Commerce: Why It Should Be the Least of Your Worries

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