How to Navigate Byzantine Sales Tax Laws on Black Friday

Not only do you need to keep track of your purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday (make sure you buy something for your officemate who's watching you shop!), you need to keep track of your sales tax. 

Granted, it's a total holiday buzzkill. But if you're constantly complaining about the beat-up roads and poor educational system in your state, then tally up and pay up. 

Here's why.

What is a Sales Tax?

It's basically a consumption tax on the goods and services you buy - and is generally charged at point of sale.

And that includes your online purchases.

"Online sellers have to collect sales tax from customers in the states they have physical presence,'" reminds Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and tax expert at TurboTax.

So if you order something from Macy's and there is a store in your state, the company is supposed to charge you a sales tax and send it to your state.

Your state then uses that money to fix those roads and hire better teachers.

Nowadays, thanks to the Amazon laws, most states require an out-of-state retailer to collect its sales tax and send it to them. So if you're a New Jersey resident and you buy something online from a store in New York, the site should collect your state taxes and send them to Jersey.

But while some states mandate this, others don't.

So then what?

And There's a Use Tax?

In theory, you're supposed to keep track of the all purchases you made that don't have a sales tax attached, says Carol Kokinis-Graves, a senior state tax analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting U.S.

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