How to Collect Sales Tax on Shopify: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Are you an online seller hoping to start collecting sales tax on Shopify? You're in the right place. This guide will lay out everything you need to know about sales tax on Shopify and provide a step-by-step process for setting up sales tax collection. Let's dive in.

Understanding Sales Tax on Shopify

What is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a consumption tax charged on goods and services sold to end consumers. It's collected by the seller and remitted to the appropriate taxing authority - typically a state, county, or city - on a regular basis. As a result, sales tax rates and rules can vary significantly depending on where you're located and who you're selling to.

For example, in the United States, sales tax rates can range from 0% to over 10%, and there are over 12,000 different sales tax jurisdictions. This means that as a seller, you need to be aware of the sales tax rules and rates in each location where you have customers.

How Shopify Handles Sales Tax

Shopify offers built-in sales tax collection tools that can automatically calculate sales tax based on the location of the buyer and the seller, as well as the tax rules in place at the destination. This means that you don't have to manually calculate sales tax for each transaction, which can be a time-consuming and error-prone process.

In addition, Shopify can handle tax exemptions, refunds, and reporting for your business. This can save you even more time and effort, as you don't have to worry about keeping track of exemptions or filing tax reports manually.

Sales Tax Nexus and Your Online Store

Nexus is a term used to describe the connection between a business and a state that triggers an obligation to collect and remit sales tax. In general, you have nexus in a state if you have a physical presence there, such as a store, warehouse, or office. However, certain activities such as selling online may also create nexus, depending on the state.

For example, some states have "click-through" nexus laws that require sellers to collect sales tax if they have affiliates or referral partners in the state. Other states have economic nexus laws that require sellers to collect sales tax if they have a certain amount of sales or transactions in the state, even if they don't have a physical presence there.

As an online seller, it's important to understand the sales tax nexus rules in each state where you have customers. This can help you avoid costly penalties and fines for non-compliance.

Overall, understanding sales tax and how it applies to your online store is essential for running a successful and compliant business. With Shopify's built-in sales tax tools and resources, you can simplify the process of collecting, remitting, and reporting sales tax, and focus on growing your business.

Setting Up Sales Tax Collection in Shopify

If you're an ecommerce business owner, you know that collecting sales tax can be a complex and confusing process. Fortunately, Shopify makes it easy to set up and manage your sales tax collection. In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps to get started.

Registering for a Sales Tax Permit

The first step to collecting sales tax on Shopify is to register for a sales tax permit in each state where you have nexus. Nexus refers to the connection between your business and a state, which can be established through various factors such as physical presence, sales volume, or affiliate relationships. If you're unsure whether you have nexus in a particular state, you should consult with a tax professional.

To register for a sales tax permit, you'll typically need to fill out an application and provide some basic information about your business, such as your EIN and contact information. Many states allow you to apply online, but some may require a paper application. Once you've completed the application process, you'll receive a sales tax permit from each state where you're registered.

Configuring Sales Tax Settings in Shopify

Once you have your sales tax permits, you'll need to configure your sales tax settings in Shopify. To do this, navigate to the 'Taxes' section of your admin dashboard. From there, you can enter your tax rates for each state where you have nexus.

Shopify allows you to set up tax exemptions for certain types of products or customers, such as wholesale or nonprofit purchases. You can also choose whether to include tax in your product prices or display it separately at checkout. If you're not sure which option to choose, you should consult with a tax professional.

One of the most useful features of Shopify's tax settings is the automated tax calculation feature. With this feature enabled, Shopify will automatically calculate the appropriate tax rate for each transaction based on the shipping address of the customer. This can save you a lot of time and effort compared to manually calculating taxes for each order.

Adding Tax Rates for Different States and Jurisdictions

It's important to note that sales tax rates can vary not only by state but also by city, county, and other local jurisdictions. In Shopify, you can add multiple tax rates within a single state to account for these variations. For example, if you have nexus in California, you'll need to account for the state sales tax rate as well as any local sales tax rates in cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Shopify also allows you to set custom tax rates for specific products or collections, if necessary. For example, if you sell both taxable and nontaxable items, you can set up separate tax rates for each category.

By following these steps, you can set up and manage your sales tax collection in Shopify with ease. Remember to consult with a tax professional if you have any questions or concerns about your sales tax obligations.

Managing Sales Tax Exemptions

Identifying Tax-Exempt Customers

It's common for some customers to be exempt from sales tax - for example, if they are a tax-exempt organization such as a nonprofit or government entity. You're responsible for verifying their tax-exempt status and providing any necessary documentation. Shopify has a built-in feature that allows customers to self-identify as tax-exempt during checkout, although you should still verify their status manually if possible.

One way to verify a customer's tax-exempt status is to ask for their tax-exempt certificate. This certificate is issued by the state and confirms that the organization is exempt from paying sales tax. You can also check the organization's website or contact their accounting department to confirm their tax-exempt status.

It's important to note that not all nonprofit organizations are tax-exempt. Some may still be required to pay sales tax on their purchases, depending on the state and the type of goods or services they are buying.

Applying Tax Exemptions in Shopify

If you've determined that a customer is tax-exempt, you can apply that exemption in Shopify by creating a tax exemption rule. This will ensure that the customer is not charged sales tax on their purchase.

When creating a tax exemption rule, you'll need to specify the criteria that must be met for the exemption to apply. This might include the customer's location, the type of product they are purchasing, or their tax-exempt status.

It's important to keep in mind that tax laws can vary by state, so it's a good idea to consult with a tax professional or do your own research to ensure that you're applying the correct exemptions.

Handling Resale Certificates

If you sell products to other businesses for resale, they may provide you with a resale certificate. This certificate allows them to purchase products from you without paying sales tax, since they will collect taxes from their own customers when reselling the products.

When a customer provides you with a resale certificate, it's important to verify its validity. This might involve checking the certificate number against a state database or contacting the issuing agency directly.

It's also important to keep accurate records of resale certificates and to update them as needed. Some states require businesses to renew their resale certificates periodically, so it's important to stay on top of any expiration dates.

By properly managing sales tax exemptions and resale certificates, you can ensure that your business is in compliance with state tax laws and avoid any potential penalties or fines.

Collecting Sales Tax on Shipping and Handling

Understanding Taxability of Shipping Charges

In most cases, shipping charges are taxable if the product being shipped is taxable. However, there are some exceptions - for example, if the customer chooses an expedited shipping option that is not essential to the delivery of the product. It's important to determine the taxability of shipping charges in each state where you have nexus.

Configuring Shipping Tax Settings in Shopify

To configure tax settings for shipping in Shopify, navigate to the 'Shipping' section of your admin dashboard. From there, you can choose whether to charge tax on shipping, configure tax rates for different shipping zones, and set up shipping exemptions for tax-exempt customers.


Now that you have a better understanding of sales tax on Shopify and how to set up sales tax collection, you can feel confident in your ability to comply with tax laws and keep your customers happy. Remember to stay up-to-date on tax rules and regulations, as they can change frequently. Happy selling!

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