Last Updated

What is nexus and why do SaaS finance leaders care about it?

By submitting this form you agree to our terms. View our privacy policy to learn about how we use your information.
Last Updated

What is nexus and why do SaaS finance leaders care about it?

Anrok | Streamlined sales tax for SaaS

Something big changed in the world of sales tax in 2018 — a legal shift that made it much more likely for remote retailers, including SaaS companies, to be obligated to collect and remit sales tax to states across the country.

Yet today many companies are still playing catch-up on this, unsure of the details, the risks of non-compliance, or how to begin collecting and analyzing the data needed to figure it all out.

We’re here to lend a hand. Read on for your 101 guide to sales tax nexus and why SaaS finance leaders should care about it.

Wondering if it’s time for your business to start thinking about sales tax? Watch Anrok’s founder walk through why SaaS finance leaders should tackle sales tax now.

What happened in 2018?

In 2018, the South Dakota v. Wayfair Supreme Court case altered the definition of nexus, which delineates when a company is required to collect and pay taxes for sales made to customers in a given state. Up until then, the only thing that triggered nexus in a state was “sufficient physical presence,” which could be established by owning property like an office there, having a remote employee there, or other things as defined by the state, such as attending trade shows.

Wayfair ruled that tax jurisdictions may hold remote vendors liable for local taxes. States could do this by applying a standard of economic nexus — that is, judging a company to have nexus in a state based on the level of its sales or number of its transactions there.

As soon as the gavel banged on Wayfair, either physical or economic activities could trigger nexus in a state.

Get tools, tips, and tax news in your inbox

Anrok | Streamlined sales tax for SaaS

Free tool: Estimate your sales tax exposure

Read now

Table of contents

How does economic nexus work?

Economic nexus is triggered once a company reaches a certain threshold in sales and/or transactions in a given state.

This gets complicated fast, as each state has its own rules. Some states, like New York, take both sales and transaction thresholds into account. Others, like Alaska, require companies to reach only one type of threshold to trigger nexus. Yet others, like Pennsylvania, only look at your level of sales. And finally, some states, such as California, don’t require sales tax on software products at all.

Staying compliant in this context requires monitoring your sales and transactions across the U.S. and checking them against each state’s thresholds. It doesn’t take a CFO to see that this is a heavy lift for busy companies.

When should you worry about non-compliance?

When to start worrying about all this depends on your exposure and your risk tolerance. Three big costs of non-compliance are audit risk, revenue impact, and hiring implications.

Knowing that audits do arise, SaaS leaders may want to seek out a tool that can be the system of record for sales and transactions in each state. They may also want to consider the impact of non-compliance on the bottom line and the ability to hire. In the case of an audit, you will not only pay the tax that you would have been able to pass on to customers, but also penalties and interest. Being able to stay compliant in any jurisdiction in which your company may want to hire helps your staff stay confident in hiring anyone they see fit.

According to a rough estimate, non-compliant SaaS companies are likely to experience a ~4.3% drag on profitability. So a non-compliant company looking to grow $20M ARR in the next year will be nearly $1M in the hole. Punting the issue only means that you will be booking a liability year over year, and allowing penalties and interest to accrue.

Once you create a calculation that reflects your own pattern of sales, you’ll be able to see the exact weight of the financial burden you’ll be taking on if you fail to comply with nexus laws.

What do I do now?

To move toward compliance, start with a nexus survey to assess your exposure. Tabulate your sales and transactions in each state during a given period and compare those numbers to the state-specific threshold in each state to see if you’ve triggered nexus or are getting close to it. Don’t forget to also check for physical presence — where do your remote employees live?

When you are getting close to triggering nexus in a given state, you need to register to collect sales tax in that state. Keep in mind that it takes about a month for many states to process that registration. You should then integrate your tax solution into your billing and payment systems so tax can be calculated in real-time and be automatically included in your returns.

Anrok will do all of this for you, as well as automate filing and remittance of sales tax. Our system also tracks your required filing frequency, which can change based on your revenue growth. Finance leaders choose Anrok because of the hyper-focus on SaaS and the fact that the platform automates everything regarding sales tax from end-to-end. Reach out to learn how we can help you.

Get tools, tips, and tax news in your inbox

Keep reading