Why Are Multi State Tax Issues a Problem for Companies?

So imagine that you're a company and you're based in Texas and you go to work every day in Texas. Your employees are in Texas, sure you sell products outside of Texas but a lot of companies sell products outside of Texas, and over time as your business grows and scales you begin to have more and more contacts with other states. Maybe you have clients in Oklahoma or California or Florida. Maybe you sell something that requires installation and so you have to send either employees or independent contractors to various states to help install products. Maybe you offer complimentary services. You sell software, you need somebody to help train your clients or to teach them things. Maybe you send salespeople to two different locations. Maybe you have an employee and she's been with you for ten years and she gets a job offer and she wants to move to San Diego. The problem that we see with a lot of businesses in this digital age and in the age of routine domestic airline flights and the ease of travel is companies start to develop more and more of an interstate web and for a company that's been based in Texas, that has ownership that's been based in Texas their entire lives,

the problem with this is as the company starts scaling, nobody thinks about the multi-state tax consequences that the company is triggering. So the issue with this is that it's not something that most CPAs think about because your CPA is focused on your federal income tax preparation. Maybe you start paying sales tax in a couple of states but nobody really stops to consider do I have a state income tax liability in that state and a variety of other things happen but the reality is business owners and corporate executives need to stop thinking of themselves as only being based in one state and start looking at themselves as multi-state organizations. Because to the extent that you create nexus or establish minimum contacts in a different state, you're in real trouble. If you want an example of this, the best example I can give you is what happened with Amazon two years ago. The state of California made a ruling that if we're holding inventory through a third-party company in the state of California that you have state sales tax nexus and likely state income taxes. So the issue with this is is that you've got all these Amazon sellers, most of whom were small companies, were selling online and suddenly right in fourth quarter of 2018 California sends a whole bunch of letters to four and a half million Amazon sellers saying "hey you owe us back sales taxes for the last five years." And it's an incredible phenomenon but it happened and we got a lot of activity because of that, so my big plea and my encouragement even if you're in another state, even if you're watching this video right now, think about your exposure in different states. What is your multi state sales tax liability exposure? What is your multi state income tax exposure? If you can answer those questions and sleep well at night, you're far better ahead than most but please examine these issues. Look at them. If you need help, hire somebody who's qualified to help you navigate through the waters because this gets really complicated. You're dealing with different jurisdictions and there's a lot of things that you can mess up but the important thing is putting a compliance plan in place doesn't have to be super expensive. It doesn't have to be super complicated, it just takes time and care and thought and consideration to put into place.


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law