This article takes a closer look at what to do to set up, record, and track sales tax for products you sell in QuickBooks Online.
Foremost, QuickBooks Online is accounting software, not tax software. You cannot file your taxes directly with QuickBooks. However, you will use QuickBooks to track the collection of sales tax. These financial records are also essential for reporting your income to the IRS.
First, let’s make sure you’re set up to collect Sales Tax. All of your tax information is managed from the Tax Tab in QuickBooks Online. The first time you visit the Tax Tab, you will be prompted to complete an onboarding workflow.
Before completing this workflow, make sure you've selected your business’ accounting method in Account and Settings (Gear Icon > Account and Settings > Advanced > Accounting). This step is very important – currently, the Automated Sales Tax Center feature in QuickBooks Online only calculates taxes using the accrual method, regardless of company accounting preferences.
The Automated Tax Center (using accrual method)
If you are new to QuickBooks Online and you...
The Automated Tax Center (using cash method)
The first time you begin the setup in the Tax Tab, you’ll be asked where you sell your products. By choosing your accounting method and specifying where you sell products, you're also deciding whether you want QuickBooks to automatically identify your state tax agency and calculate taxes for you.
Once you input your tax period start date and filing frequency, the Sales Tax feature is set permanently.
You should also check whether the products you sell are taxable. Generally, services are not taxable, but there are exceptions – if you’re unsure, reach out to a tax professional. When you’re in the Products and Services menu editing an item, you can choose to make it taxable. There are several Sales Tax Category options. Here’s the advice from our experts:
If you sell to tax-exempt customers (organizations, non-profits, or charities, to name a few), you can choose to not collect sales tax from them. By default, all customers are “taxable.” To change this setting, navigate to the Customers subtab and edit their account. Find the Tax info tab in the edit window and uncheck the box to exempt their account.
Still feeling a bit unsure? Here's the long-form guide for setting up taxes in Quick Books Online
Taxes are complicated territory. There are rules that are downright confusing. What makes these rules even trickier is that many are contextual, some only apply to certain types of business in certain circumstances.
It’s best not to guess when it comes to tax laws. When in doubt, reach out to your accountant or a tax expert for advice. Prepare a list of questions and use your consultation to ask specific questions about your accounts. You can also reach out to the experts on the TurboTax community with your pressing questions about tax collection, exceptions, and categorizations.
While setting up the Sales Tax Center takes a bit of planning, recording sales tax is very easy. The process is exactly the same for both Invoices and Sales Receipts. If a product is set as “taxable,” the sales tax option is automatically selected on the sales form.
Keep an eye on the tax column when you’re preparing sales forms so you aren’t accidentally collecting sales tax for non-qualifying products or services. A quick review of the total and subtotal is another simple way to prevent minor but nonetheless pesky errors. In general, most services are non-taxable, but it depends on your industry and where you live.
If you use the Automated Tax Center (and not the manual method), QuickBooks Online will calculate sales tax for you based on the customer’s address on file. If you need to change the tax rate, simply select the correct one from the drop-down.
You'll track sales tax throughout the quarter, but how do you use the collected data to actually make tax payments?
Tools like the Sales Tax Liability Report and Tax Tab will help you record tax payments made throughout the year, pull the numbers needed to make tax payments, and maintain accurate accounts once you’ve made tax payments. As the video mentions, you cannot pay or file your taxes directly using QuickBooks Online. Instead, you will...
As long as you completed the workflow in the Sales Tax Center, your Sales Tax Liability Report will summarize taxable amounts from sales for each locality (state and local) you are responsible for filing sales taxes in.
Keep in mind...
With the information from the Sales Tax Liability Report in hand, go to the Tax Tab where you will see of all the returns you’ll need to file. Go through these returns one-by-one, using the figures from your Sales Tax Liability Report and the data in the Tax Tab to prepare your filings outside of QuickBooks.
As needed, you can make adjustments so your accounts in QuickBooks so they match what you actually paid to each state. If everything looks good, click “Record Payment” and enter your tax payment information so the returns in QuickBooks are now marked as "paid."
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So, I decide to tryout Quickbooks online - I just spent hours putting in invoice data and now I see there is no tax added. So I try to put on the automatic tax - but we have wholesale and retail customers. I'm in Hawaii and we have General Excise tax and are supposed to charge; .50% excise for wholesale and 4.5% for all others - but the auto tax keeps charging 4.712% which our company does not use - If I try to change to tax exempt, it goes to zero (we need to charge .50% in those cases) So, i would have to basically tell the employees when they make an invoice, they have to figure out who is wholesale/retail, then go and override and calculate the tax for .50 or 4.5 - this is going to cause so many errors that my head would explode. I just wish QBO would let you put in your own tax rates. So I guess I am going back to my original software.