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What are sales taxes?

Harold Averkamp, CPA, MBA

In the United States, most of its 50 States assess a sales tax, which is a tax on sales to the end user. For example, in the state of Wisconsin a retailer must collect a 5% sales tax and perhaps another 0.5% for a county sales tax on specified goods and services. The retailer must remit the sales taxes collected within a prescribed time period.

The items subject to sales tax will vary from state to state. In some states basic food items might not be taxed, but meals at restaurants will be subject to sales tax. Some services might be subject to a sales tax. Sales of raw materials to a manufacturer will be exempt if the materials will be used in products that will be manufactured and sold. When the products are sold by the manufacturer to a retailer for resale, the manufacturer will be also be  exempt from collecting a sales tax. Sales by retailer to an end consumer will require the collection of sales taxes. Sales tax can be viewed as a tax on consumption.

In accounting, the sales taxes collected by the seller of the goods or services are not revenues for the seller. For example, if a merchant sells an item for $100 and the item is subject to a 5% sales tax, the merchant will debit Cash for $105 and will credit Sales for $100 and will credit Sales Tax Payable for $5. Sales Tax Payable is a liability account. When the sales taxes are remitted to the state, the merchant will debit Sales Tax Payable.

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About the Author

Harold Averkamp

For the past 52 years, Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has
worked as an accounting supervisor, manager, consultant, university instructor, and innovator in teaching accounting online. He is the sole author of all the materials on

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