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Calculating And Collecting Sales Tax: Tips And Best Practices For Restaurants

Restaurants often find themselves under the tax audit spotlight – these businesses can be perceived as havens for a significant amount of cash movement. This notion, while not entirely unfounded, warrants closer examination, as it highlights the importance of meticulous financial management in the sector.

This all means that for restaurateurs, the potential consequences of non-compliance are daunting. In fact, in restaurant audits, a discreet tactic is used by auditors. They’ve been known to visit restaurants without prior notice, buying meals with cash to assess compliance and check if cash transactions are properly recorded and reported. These unannounced visits create anxiety and underscore the significant risks restaurants face during audits.

Are you a restaurant owner worried about your tax compliance duties? In this piece, we will explore some best practices, unravel the reasons behind the scrutiny, and equip you with the knowledge and strategies needed to ensure your “ducks are in a row” when it comes to tax compliance.

Here’s what we’ll be addressing:

  1. Understanding the application of Sales Tax to the Restaurant Industry:
    • What is Sales Tax?: Tax on restaurant food, varying by location. Owners must collect and remit it.
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Arizona Transaction Privilege Tax Exemption For Forklifts Used By Manufacturers

The Arizona Transaction Privilege Tax exemption for forklifts used by manufacturers has been clarified and expanded as a result of a recent ruling received by the sales tax consultants at Agile Consulting Group. Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT is to Arizona what Sales and Use Tax is to most other U.S. states. Transaction Privilege Tax is levied on sales of most goods and some services in the state of Arizona. However, there is an exemption in place for the manufacturing industry.

In a prior post, Agile has discussed the Arizona sales tax exemption for manufacturing. The exemption is outlined in Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §42-5061(B)(1) and includes a number of different categories of purchases commonly made by manufacturers. One area where the Statutes and the Arizona Department of Revenue’s guidance has been lacking relates to forklifts, which are arguably one the most universally used types of machinery and equipment across all types of manufacturing operations regardless of the product being produced. In fact, no prior rulings or guidance have been provided regarding how the Arizona Department of Revenue suggests that the manufacturing exemption applies to forklift purchases, leases, repairs, as well as the fuel used to power these units.

Agile requested clarification of the Arizona Transaction Privilege Tax exemption for forklifts used by manufacturers in a ruling submitted to the Arizona Department of Revenue in June 2023. Additionally, our sales tax consultants argued for favorable tax treatment of these forklifts across twelve different scenarios for forklifts in use at a plant for one of our longstanding Arizona manufacturing clients. In the response Agile received from the Arizona Department of Revenue’s Taxpayer Services Section representative, we received encouraging news for all Arizona manufacturers that use forklifts within their manufacturing process.

The key takeaways from the ruling Agile received about the Arizona Transaction Privilege Tax exemption for forklifts used by manufacturers are:

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Utility Studies for Sales and Use Tax Exemptions

While specific exemptions vary from state to state most manufacturers are aware that all states offer some type of sales & use tax exemptions for having operations located within their state. Manufacturers always capture all of the savings pertaining to sales tax exemptions on raw materials, machinery and equipment, but often overlook the utilities exemptions. Some jurisdictions exempt manufacturers from paying sales tax on energy sources, such as electricity, natural gas, and water, when used in the manufacturing process.

What Is A Manufacturer?

The definition as to what qualifies as manufacturing varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The key is that manufacturing involves the transformation of raw materials or components into finished goods through a series of processes. Different business activities and operations that can be considered as manufacturing including assembly, fabrication, processing, machining, chemical production, printing, textile production, automotive manufacturing, wood working, plastic molding, food and beverage production, pharmaceutical manufacturing, aerospace manducating, and packaging.

What Is A Utility Study?

A utility study, in the context of sales and use tax, refers to an examination and analysis of utility usage within a business to determine the portion of utility expenses that may qualify for tax exemptions. The goal of a utility study is to identify and document the usage of utilities—such as electricity, natural gas, water, and other energy sources—that are related to qualifying activities, typically those associated with manufacturing or other specified processes.

The sales and use tax regulations in most jurisdictions provide exemptions for certain types of utility usage, particularly when those utilities are consumed in specific activities that contribute to the production process. By conducting a utility study, businesses aim to segregate and document the utility consumption that qualifies for these exemptions, with the ultimate objective of reducing or recovering sales and use taxes paid on non-exempt utility usage.

What Are The Steps To Doing A Utility Study?

Performing a utility study to obtain a refund of sales and use tax for utilities used in the manufacturing process involves a systematic approach to document and analyze utility consumption. The process may vary based on jurisdiction, but here is a general guide:

The utility study process requires careful documentation and adherence to tax regulations to support any claims for exemptions or refunds. It is advisable for businesses to work with tax professionals or consultants who specialize in sales and use tax matters to ensure that the study is conducted accurately and in compliance with applicable laws.

Have a question? Want to be introduced to Kamal Shaw? Contact Eric Larson, Source Advisors.

Sales Tax Ramifications For Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) Products

This information provided in this post was updated in November 2023, and now includes an additional 2 states.

Almost every day we receive a call or inquiry from a potential client who has questions about the sales tax ramifications for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. While the laws vary from state to state, the SaaS revenue stream is subject to tax in some form in over 25 different jurisdictions in the US. In some cases, SaaS might not be subject to state level tax, but may be taxed at the local level (see Colorado and Illinois below for further discussion).  To add to the confusion, companies who may deliver a SaaS based product, but also still have some legacy enterprise software that is electronically downloaded may find that the two products are subject to tax differently.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on the rules for both SaaS and electronically downloaded software in 20 key states.  (Sure the title says 18 – but we took our most popular blog of all time and retooled it for our readers – and included a couple more states for your reading enjoyment.)

Have a specific question about sales tax and SaaS, contact us directly at to set up an appointment.

Here is a quick link to the  taxability of SaaS in your selected state, as discussed in more detail below:
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Texas Sales And Use Tax Rules For Construction-Related Services

The Texas sales and use tax rules surrounding contractors and other construction-related work are incredibly complex. Additionally, the rules are structured to have broad application and thus impact many industries, including general construction, oil and gas related services, demolition, and more. The application of these rules is a fact-intensive undertaking and should be performed on a case-by-case basis, but I have outlined a basic overview of these rules below.

What is a “Contractor”?

The Texas Comptroller defines a “contractor” as a person who performs one or more of the following real property improvements and who, in making the improvement, incorporates tangible personal property into the real property being improved: [1]

“New Construction”

Building new improvements to residential or nonresidential real property; or
Completing any part of an uncompleted new structure that is an improvement to residential or nonresidential real property
“Scheduled and Periodic Maintenance”
Making improvements to real property as part of periodic and scheduled maintenance of nonresidential real property [2]
“Residential Repair & Remodel”
Repair, restoration, maintenance, or remodeling of residential real property
Work performed by a “contractor” also specifically includes the initial finish-out work to the interior or exterior of an improvement to real property [3], and the addition of new usable square footage to an existing building. [4]

Is Work Performed By a “Contractor” Subject to Sales Tax?
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Rentals Versus Services Under Texas Sales And Use Tax

One of the thorniest issues in Texas sales and use tax is the distinction between the rental of tangible personal property (which is subject to tax) and the provision of a service (which is only taxable if the service is taxable). This distinction not only affects the taxability of charges for the rental or service but also that of equipment that is purchased to provide the rental or service.

What’s a Rental?

The rental of tangible personal property in Texas is subject to sales or use tax.[1] A rental occurs when possession but not title to tangible personal property is transferred for consideration.[2] A person acquires possession of tangible personal property when that person acquires operational control over that property.[3] Operational control, in turn, means that the customer can use, control, or operate the tangible personal property.[4]

What are Taxable Services?

Only the following services are subject to Texas sales or use tax:
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2023 Court Cases And Decisions: Sales And Use Taxes

The Geo Group, Inc. v. Hegar, No. 07-22-00005-CV (Tex. App.-Amarillo Jan. 23, 2023, no pet. hist.)—The Seventh Court of Appeals held that a company that owns and operates correctional and detention facilities under contracts with the state of Texas and the United States was not entitled to a sales tax refund due to the company’s purchases being exempt, affirming the trial court’s decision to that effect.

The company had argued that the detention and rehabilitation services that it provided are a quintessential governmental function, making the company an “instrumentality” of the state and federal governments and thereby rendering the company’s purchases exempt from sales or use tax under 34 Tex. Admin. Code 3.322(c) (Exempt Organizations).

The court of appeals noted that “instrumentality” isn’t defined in the Texas Administrative Code and the Black’s Law Dictionary defines “instrumentality” as: “1. A thing used to achieve an end or purpose. 2. A means or agency through which a function of another entity is accomplished, such as a branch of a governing body.”[1] Finding the first definition to be too broad to serve any purpose (virtually any independent contractor employed by the government could be an instrumentality under this definition), the court of appeals determined that the second definition of “instrumentality”— relating the term to “a branch of a governing body”—was more in harmony with the exemption in question.

The court of appeals found that while the company housed federal detainees and was required to comply with specific government regulations, the company was a distinct entity engaged in commercial for-profit activities, wasn’t controlled by the federal or state or federal government and didn’t contract exclusively with the federal or state government. For all of these reasons, the court of appeals held that the company wasn’t an instrumentality of the federal or state government that was exempt from sales or use tax.


Tax Liens
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AARON GILES - Know The Florida Facts Before You File Your Tax

Know The Florida Facts Before You File Your Tax

There has been a longstanding Florida sales tax exemption for food, however that exemption was limited to specific categories and types of food and did not extend to all food sales. In a restaurant setting, all food purchases would be exempt from Florida sales and use tax because of the intent to resell the food to its customers. In healthcare facilities, as well as other types of facilities that provide food services to the individuals occupying them, the line of demarcation between who is the ultimate consumer of the food can be more complex. Agile Consulting Group’s sales tax consultants have received a ruling from the Florida Department of Revenue that entitles facilities that furnish meals to individuals housed within them to make non-taxable purchases of all food under an expanded interpretation of the Florida sales tax exemption for food.

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Shocking Court Cases In Texas: Franchise Tax, Sales & Use Tax, Miscellaneous Gross Receipts Tax, Beverage Tax

Court Cases

Franchise Tax


Conagra Brands, Inc. v. Hegar, No. 03-21-00111-CV (Tex. App.—Austin Aug 24, 2022, no pet. h.)—The Third Court of Appeals held that a taxpayer could not include gross receipts from certain securities in its apportionment-factor denominator for purposes of calculating its Texas franchise tax.[1]

  • The taxpayer in question was in the business of producing food products for sale to grocery stores, convenience stores and food service businesses. In order to mitigate the risks associated with potential fluctuations in the price of necessary components and raw materials, the taxpayer bought and sold commodity futures contracts.
  • The taxpayer argued that these securities were inventory for federal tax purposes and that the gross proceeds from the sale of these securities should be included in its apportionment factor denominator. On appeal, however, the taxpayer didn’t dispute the trial court’s finding that the securities weren’t inventory as defined in the Internal Revenue Code. Instead, the taxpayer argued that the securities were in substance inventory under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Corn Products Refining Co. v. Comm’r, 350 U.S. 46 (1955).

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Maryland Tax And Business Climate

This month we travel to the birthplace of religious freedom in America, the mid-Atlantic state of Maryland. Formed by George Calvert in the early 17th Century, the state was intended as a refuge for persecuted Catholics from England. George Calvert was the first Lord of Baltimore and the first English proprietor of the then-Maryland colonial grant. Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the U.S. Constitution and played a pivotal role in the founding of Washington D.C., which was established on land donated by the state.

Maryland is defined by its abundant waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Its largest city, Baltimore, has a history as a major seaport, and is also home to such tourist attractions as the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.

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Returns And Sales Tax: What Are Important Things To Know As A Business?

Returns are inevitable when you sell a product, whether you are a brick-and-mortar business, an online retailer or both. According to a recent survey published by the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail, retailers saw about 16.6% of total merchandise sold eventually returned in 2021, which is up from the 10.6% of total returns in 202o. Since you are bound to see returns as an e-commerce business, it is important to be aware of the sales tax refund obligation process.

It seems simple enough, right? You need to refund your customer the sales tax that you collected from them, so just claim a credit on your next sales tax return. Unfortunately, as with just about every area of sales tax, the answer is a little more complicated. Keep reading this article to learn more about your state’s requirements for refunds and sales tax.

How Many Returns Are We Talking About?

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Arizonan Department Of Revenue Sales And Use Tax Nexus

Although commonly referred to as a sales tax, the Arizona transaction privilege tax (TPT) is actually a tax on a vendor for the privilege of doing business in the state. It is measured by the value of tangible personal property (TPP) sold by the vendor in Arizona. The vendor is liable for the tax, even though the vendor may pass on the tax to the consumer.

Use tax, which is a tax on any TPP bought from an out-of-state vendor that is stored, used or consumed in Arizona, and no tax was paid to the state of sale. The consumer is liable for use tax if TPP was purchased with no tax paid to the state of sale. If there is no nexus with the state, a vendor may collect use tax for the convenience of the customer.

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