Supply chain changes could trigger new tax obligations for manufacturers


Avalara, a Cavallo® partner, details the potential tax revisions manufacturers face in 2022 and provides tips on how to stay compliant.

Manufacturers have always faced unique challenges when it comes to sales and use taxes, thanks to interconnections and interdependence within manufacturing operations. 

The manufacturing industry also tends to be a prime target for auditors. The most common mistakes auditors find include: 

  • Failure to register where required
  • Failure to report consumer use tax
  • Missing exemption certificates and other document errors

COVID-19 complications

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to these challenges: While demand for goods is generally high, companies are faced with worldwide shortages of labor and materials

These supply-chain issues can complicate compliance with sales and use taxes. For example, significant delays may compel a business to store inventory in transit in a new state. If the state taxes inventory in transit — as some do — that business could suddenly have tax liability in that state.

Alternatively, a company operating with just-in-time inventories may find itself building up excesses of, say, building materials, while waiting for other critical inputs to arrive. The company could pull inventory to build out additional storage facilities or shelves — and end up liable for use tax on the inventory. 

And if no one is in the office because of stay-at-home orders, there may be no quick way to find the exemption and resale certificates needed to validate exempt transactions. 

Drop shipping

Sales-tax obligations may also come into play when manufacturers cut out intermediaries and sell directly to consumers. Drop shipping makes these companies retailers in addition to manufacturers.

There are advantages to selling direct to consumers: It’s something consumers increasingly want, and it can increase margins for manufacturers. However, it should be done with eyes wide open with respect to tax compliance.

Even if you make little in the way of taxable sales to consumers, your exempt sales into a state could establish a nexus and create an obligation to register for sales tax; validate exempt sales; and report all sales into the state, including exempt sales. To tax them correctly, you’ll need to know how to source sales and be able to calculate and remit the correct rate of tax for each transaction.

Exemption certificates 

Companies with a lot of exempt transactions can benefit from an automated exemption certificate management system. Depending on the size of your company and the number of exempt transactions made, you may need to collect and store 50 certificates, or 5,000. All need to be valid when collected and renewed before they expire, which is complicated by differing requirements from state to state.

If an exemption certificate you had on file with a vendor expires, an auditor may go after the vendor for the tax due — but they also could go after you for not remitting use tax on that transaction.

Stay compliant 

As your business continues to grow in 2022, be sure to stay up to date on all the information manufacturers need to stay in compliance, including consumer use taxes and the risk of effectively paying tax twice.

More information about changes to tax regulations affecting manufacturers — including consumer use taxes and the risk of effectively paying tax twice — can be found at the Avalara Tax Desk, which is a leading source of information on transaction taxes. The full Avalara Tax Changes 2022 report is available at