Enterprise Ecommerce / How to Sell Online

Tax Audit Checklist for Ecommerce: Don’t Let the Next Audit Take You by Surprise

Matthew Grattan / 2 min read

Audits are no joke. They’re stressful, time-consuming and costly if you’re found to be out of compliance.

Odds that your business will be targeted for a sales tax audit are greater than you think. To make up budget shortfalls, states are hiring more auditors and keeping them busy. No need to panic, though. We’ve prepared a checklist to assess your compliance readiness and make sure your business is ready to stand up to every last tax law.

By understanding where you have sales tax obligations, you will be better able to assess your risk in this audit (and future ones) and be proactive to avoid costly fees and penalties. In other words, should the auditor come knocking, you’ll be less inclined to bolt the door.

1. Know Where You Owe

Sales tax varies widely by state, industry and even by the types of products and services you sell. This complexity increases as your business grows. Nexus laws now apply to online and out-of-state companies, not just those with headquarters, warehouses and other physical plants in state. To see if your compliance obligations have changed, ask yourself, do you:

2. Assess Your Risk

Much like businesses, auditors have quotas and look for patterns of non-compliance. The more you know about how to calculate, collect and remit sales tax, the more likely you are to catch any mistakes or oversights and correct them prior to an audit. Review your compliance practices to make sure you:

  • Understand your filing requirements
  • Made accurate tax rate calculations
  • Can justify product taxability or exempt sales
  • Kept detailed sales records and can easily access them

3. Be Proactive

Being prepared involves directing your plans toward the future rather than scrambling to respond after the fact. Despite the complexities of the nexus system, there are steps you can take to decrease the chance you will be audited or at least reduce the likelihood that you’ll face uncollected tax fees or penalties. To avoid an unwelcome surprise:

  • Conduct a nexus study
  • Stay up-to-date with rate, rule and boundary changes
  • Report consumer’s use tax
  • Replace manual process with automation

There’s no way to predict whether or not the state will come calling. But, with a little advance planning, you can minimize the impact of a sales tax audit on your business.

Better yet, automate your sales tax. Then you won’t need this checklist — or a deadbolt lock. With Tax Powered by Avalara, all Bigcommerce merchants get accurate sales tax rates using Avalara’s industry-leading calculation engine.

Master your taxes with the Ecommerce Tax Handbook.


Matthew Grattan

Matthew Grattan

Matthew Grattan is a senior national director for Avalara’s ecommerce team. He’s been with Avalara for over five years supporting their ecommerce practice. Matthew has 17 years of experience in the software and SaaS industries. He received his degree at Bryant University with a degree in finance.

View all posts by Matthew Grattan
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