A business is built on two pillars: product and distribution. If you have a great product that you want to sell online, you need to decide how you are going to sell it. The big decision is whether to start selling in the existing marketplace, or to invest in personalised online store development. (The ambitious among us may do both).
The existing marketplace refers to any communal website that caters for numerous retailers and shoppers. The most popular markets in the U. S. are Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Etsy. It’s simple to create a seller account on these platforms and start selling your products immediately. Running your own eCommerce website means the online shop belongs to your brand. Developing such a site requires paying for a SaaS solution or using an open-source eCommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce.
We could debate the pros and cons of each option for days, but if you want to distribute your product to the USA, it’s important you understand the US sales tax obligations of each channel…
The golden rule is this: your website, your responsibility.
All 47 US states that have sales tax oblige the seller to register and charge sales tax on their transactions if the sales are made on a web shop. Regardless of whether you deliver your products from outside the US or from fulfilment centre(s) in the states, it is your responsibility to determine whether you have created a Nexus in the state where your website has delivered to and register accordingly. Even if the majority of your sales are done on a marketplace, if you are “omni-channel” and also sell to the US from your own site, the obligations will still apply.
If you do have US sales tax obligations and end up registering in one or more states, it will then also be your responsibility to ensure your website charges the correct sales tax to the end customer at checkout. Many of the SaaS or eCommerce platforms have this functionality, but it is usually very difficult to set this up compliantly without a helping hand.