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Hey folks, welcome back to the 10k collective Podcast, the place to be for six, seven, and eight-figure Amazon and e-commerce sellers, having talked with Alan Chen, of freecashflow.io, our guest for today.
Last time, we talked about free cash flow, working capital, and why it matters. We’ll talk a little more about the sales and income tax side of things today. Now sales tax is only relevant to those who are selling in the US. But tax planning generally is relevant to every single Amazon or e-commerce operator.
So I think you’re gonna get a lot out of this, even if you don’t sell in the US. But if you do, and I don’t mean just base in the US, if you’re like myself, UK based but have sold in the US or selling in the US, then the sales tax thing is not something you can avoid, even though you’re you know, 3000 miles away, plus, it’s still going to affect you and your business. So you need to educate yourself about it. And Alan’s a great person to take us through, they quite a sort of high-level overview of the subjects, but some good tax planning principles that apply to anyone in any jurisdiction.
So enjoy the show, and do take notes as ever. If you want notes, go to 10k, collective calm, and look out for the podcast notes for this show. So tell me about sales tax planning in general. But what is the sort of main principles we need to think about here?
Yeah, so I know sales tax is very much a central US topic. But for a lot of us sellers out there, it’s something you can’t escape from, right.
So sales tax, unfortunately, in the current climate, and because of the court case of South Dakota road Wayfair, it’s going to affect all online businesses that operate in the US now. And what it is, is basically because you sell in a certain state, right, you have customer concentration in a certain state, you’re responsible for remitting sales tax to the state government and percentages are different. Unfortunately, no unify federal states, I’m sorry, federal sales tax, besides you, can depend on, you literally have to go state by state and look at the sales tax rate and figure out what that is and Michael to take a further step further, not only are you looking at state sales tax, there’s also local, county, city and other jurisdictions among the state where they want a little piece of that sales that you’re making.
So you got to take that combined by the local tax rate, and that’s how much money you know, you got to remit to the government for your sales tax. So Amazon business, I would say that you know, any online business doing, you know, 6,7,8 figures, this is kind of like the point where you start thinking about it, especially if you’re seven figures and, in that because you probably have enough of a concentration of customers they sell in a state. So let’s just take Florida, for example, right?
Florida has a sales tax ratio of 100,000 or 200. transactions, meaning that if you have 100,000 of sales that are made in the state of Florida, meaning you ship $100,000 product to the state of Florida, they’re expecting you to register or register for a sales tax permit.
That’s how you are legally able to collect sales tax, and then to expect you to do possibly quarterly sales tax filings, where you take how much sales you made in that state, and then report it and say, Hey, we need x percentage that you have collected of that and the income from these customers. And it’s just a topic that’s you can tell it’s going to be very, very, I would even say annoying, right? Because you’re not doing this on a federal level, you’re doing a state by state level, and there are 50 states in the US and I think 45 of them require a sales tax to be meeting.
So you can tell why that’s such a headache. And we get this question all the time in forums of, hey, how do I do sales tax for a certain state? What do I do here? And I’m living in this state, what do I do? And the unfortunate back is right now in the current state that it doesn’t matter where you live, right? It used to be you had to be physically connected to that state right physically living in a state or physically have a warehouse or have a fulfillment center in that state. That’s what’s called physical Nexus now is what they call economic Nexus.
So as long as you have enough of a concentration of sales in a state, well, Michael, you’re obligated to pay for those states to do that, you that you have high sales. And a lot of our clients are facing that issue right now. And that’s, that’s part of what we’re trying to help them solve and alleviate. Yeah, and their list of problems that they have in a business. It’s a scary thing to try and deal with on your own, isn’t it? So I guess one obvious question is,
When do you need to reach out for professional help? Is it possible to DIY this stuff? And by the way, let’s focus on those who primarily sold on Amazon for the moment just to simplify this.
There are so complex, most of those have what I understand to be marketplace agreement. trustees have to say that the state makes the marketplace in this case, Amazon could be eBay could be walmart.com responsible for the collection and submission of sales tax. Right? I mean, do we have any obligations if we’re in a state like that as individual e-commerce operators? Or can we take care of it?
Yeah, Amazon has an advantage in that they do have that marketplace facility agreement, as you mentioned, Michael, in that, you know, other places like Shopify, they think they have the same agreement as Amazon, but they actually don’t. So they get into more of saying the trouble zone of sales tax where, you know, if you do have if you Amazon is taking care of it, what you really want to do is just making sure that they’re doing the right numbers for you, right. And also your point about Is there a way you can manage yourself? Yeah, there there is no self-test automation software out there to make a name for you guys, is a tax jar, and avalara, they’re basically a way for you to feed over your Amazon Shopify sales data and your customer listing. And then they will help you low allocate and separate things into buckets. And then, of course, you can use their service to help your sales tax needs, right, which was also great, nothing, nothing against that service, I would just say you may also still want a professional to look over whatever they’re doing. Because you don’t understand it right?
You don’t know if you’re remaining the right amount for you. You don’t know you’re overpaying. And then speaking over pain, one thing that they’re not going to help you do is, of course, sales tax planning. What I mean by sales tax planning is, as you can see, all these states have different thresholds that you have to meet, right, some states have 100,000, some 250 1500. And when you’re doing sales equity software, they’re not actually looking to do any planning for you.
They’re just making sure you’re compliant, right to do actual sales tax planning is your kind of look ahead and say, I think I’m selling around $80,000 to the state. That’s called obscene Stacy’s in Wyoming, right? And then you’re just saying, should I actually keep selling to the state? Where should I stop? And why is that advantage is because maybe if that state has a 100,000 threshold, and you can say, Hey, I’m telling my client, hey, you’re in November, maybe you should point your advertisement to the other states and stop selling in Wyoming? Because once you hit that 100,000, that’s when you need to register.
But if you don’t hit it, even if you’re 99,999, you’re not obligated to pay sales tax in Wyoming anymore. And that’s it, that’s a seven to 10% saving, I under sales tax percentage, that you’re not having to pay out, because you’re right under that cost, right. And that’s something software, what Amazon is not gonna look out for you to do.
But yeah, if you have a professional, they can say, Hey, this is the point where you may need to focus your sales strategy on some other states because you’ve already crossed the threshold there. You can be paying California anyway, for example, right? So you might as well just keep selling California, but maybe leave some other States alone and really save that money. That’s the money going back into your pocket.
So I mean, it strikes me there are a few big differences that start to kick in once you’re looking at sales tax not really been quite so clear about this until we have spoken about this today. But the marketplace facilitator thing means that Amazon does help us avoid a lot of these problems with not all of them, I guess, one, and also but the flip side is we don’t have any control over where Amazon is going to sell our inventory, which we’ve states, obviously, we can’t really control that once you’re in the Shopify world. And I guess you could do geo-targeted Google ads, for example, then you could decide that you’re not going to target anywhere, you know, selling all this stuff in LA anymore, because you’re just about to hit the sales threshold there. All right, maybe you’re over that threshold in California, you just say, Well, okay, let’s just sell really aggressively to LA because they’re buying our stuff. But you avoid Florida.
So I guess once you’ve got your own thing, you need to have a lot more, you got more control, but then you need to take control as well. So I guess that’s when having some of these it strikes was a little bit like having an expert tennis coach or something like you know, you want to get the ball just inside the line not out because that’s a penalty, or in our case, it’d be a fine or legal issue, but not just miles inside where you’re wasting potential where you could sell tax-free. So yeah, that sounds like really something very necessary. When you point out, you know, the difference between selling $99,000 in Florida and 100,000. What’s the tax difference? If I sold $99,000 worth of stuff in vital oils? Or 100,000? What difference would that make?
That the difference is literally Michael if you have to pay sales tax or not.
Okay, Florida, that would be what 10%? When I know it’s gonna vary.
Yeah, it’s I would say, I don’t want to give an exact number because like I said, his sales tax is just, it’s so nuanced because it’s not just a state rate, you have to actually dig down to the local city zip code of that exact customer and where his shipping address is, and that can trigger other little rates to add up to don’t just pay sales tax rate. That’s the complication there. Right. So and yeah, the difference is literally, you’re paying sales tax to the state of Florida, where you don’t have to, that’s the that’s a huge difference. It is it’s at seven to 10% of your total sales to that state.
Yeah, plus, presumably the cost is submitting all the forms and
Yeah, and doing all the work right. That’s so you have to think of it 100 hours, that’s like seven to 10,000, right? Seven to 10%.
Yeah. Okay. So I’m not gonna go too deep into that particular geographically based thing because for the majority of listeners, probably more focused on Amazon, at least in my mind, do get in touch guys will comment if you do sell on supply to the level where this is hitting you, but worth having somebody on your side. So then the final area. And these are huge topic areas where we could dig very deep for a long time into any of these but just skimming the surface income tax.
Now, obviously, income tax is again everything in America is complicated because of the Federal versus state thing. Zoom out a little bit so that we get some general ideas about income tax management as in the corporate tax on a corporation, I guess that is applicable as widely as possible. What are the basic things to look out for there? And then, sort of strategies that you would guide your clients through?
Yeah, I think income tax is one of those topics where again, it’s not sexy. It’s not something that most e-commerce or you know Amazon with Shopify owners wants to talk about. And once you, you know, actively think, I think a lot of time they actively avoid it, right. But the thing is, income tax is a topic you guys really do need to kind of pay attention to because it’s one of those areas where it’s where they call leaky, right, it’s a way where you can kind of like, give money away, that’s just so unknown to you. Because you’re not familiar with that world like you guys maybe have become, you know, you guys are experts on Amazon, now you got your paid ads down, you know how to get the lowest price of inventory. But if you don’t do sales, if you don’t do tax planning, in general, you’re actually giving away some of that hard-earned money that you make to the US government or to really any government really, the UK, I’m sure they have application over there too. And the thing is, if you don’t do tax planning, I see businesses, you know, that we help whore who just you know, hire a tax accountant to really you know, and when you’re doing an attack, it’s just, it’s just a bunch of forms, you fill out these forms, and at the end of the form, they tell you, Hey, you got to pay this. And that’s like normally, okay, if you’re just individual, you know, who don’t have a lot of deduction, but for businesses out there who are doing seven figures, plus people who even made six figures, they have a lot of, I would say, deductions, business deductions, that they’re not capturing credits that they made available to small business too, because the government wants to incentivize a small business to keep growing, that deny getting, and because you’re not getting these things, you’re thinking that you have said a, you know, $70,000 tax bill, when if you do can apply to these deductions and credit, you maybe reduce that to 30 or 40, or even lower, right. And that difference and gap. That’s savings, you get it and some people think this is magic, or Voodoo when you know, you’re like, I’m not supposed to pay this much. No, this as that’s one of the great things about being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, and you’re afforded so much more, I would say leeway, what gap and the amount of deduction is available to your business. Because a lot of things that can be related is I’m just gonna name a few here.
For example, if you’re running a business full time, you should be really deducting your business travel, right. And any kind of travel that you do for your business like you’re going to a conference, say you’re sending like a like an Amazon FBA conference, right? We click funnel conference, that’s deductible you should include. If you’re meeting anyone, your supplier, if you’re conducting business, your meal should be deductible. Some people don’t know that, right? If you’re actually a lot of time, we don’t have an actual office, we just run a business, a home office, there’s a home office deduction, that’s quite significant for business owners that they should actually be looking at, where if they’re only they’re not looking at that, you know, we went for one of our clients, we would get them back $12,000 more and a tax deduction because they were able to deduct, say their like their rent, mortgage utilities, repair maintenance, they did around a home office, and they would take that deduction. So there are just many many more things like that where they need to look at and say, am I doing the best job I can to manage this part of my business this tax planning part of business verse Am I just kind of giving money away to the government because I decided not to pay attention this I decided that I have made enough money right where I don’t need another I don’t know I don’t feel like anyone really say that. But I see clients telling me that like I’m like I asked them Hey, why don’t you do more tax money like I make enough money it’s fine. Like you don’t want another $30,000 in profit. Yeah, you don’t wait so you gotta drive this I don’t know lower model Ferrari and not get the high-end Ferrari for example. Again, a 30,000. Right. I don’t know. I don’t even do Ferrario wrap I know a lot of them were responsible for their money and if I want to take them reinvested like in real estate well, any other things they want to do with it really help their family out. Right.
I would say what’s strange about it is this I mean, I don’t have a problem with somebody not genuinely not caring about money. I know. I don’t think I know anybody who’s actually like that. I know some monks are not well, but who is probably the least interested in the money of anyone I know. And enough is really like literally a religious conviction for them. Or in fact, I know some Christian monks have the same idea, but I don’t think any business owner works that way. Because otherwise, if you’re obsessing about Can I grow my revenue $30,000 this year, more than last year, which every single Amazon sell I’ve ever met really, really wants without any exception. In my opinion, and maybe the odd free, he doesn’t want to grow the business. Why would you not care about saving 30,000 in your profit? It’s just a weird idea is now I guess there’s a mentality shift that needs to happen, which is, I’m going through just listen to you now. I’m like 30,000 from 70,000 tax bill is just a monster saving, how come that’s even legal on? I guess the archer is? Because you, you need to understand the tax law. And I guess you guys do and I don’t and that’s, that’s extraordinary.
To me that level of difference, I would assume that a good accountant will save you 1015 20% of the tax, but you’re saving like, you know, monster amount? How is that even possible? It’s kind of a dumb question. But
It’s crazy. And it’s something we’ve been trying to actively, you know, educate anyone that, you know, interacts with us to do, like, you know, we get a lot of DMS from our beginners that sees a CSCs, I’ll post me on Facebook or something, instead, they don’t interact. And when we kind of help them try to understand that it’s possible because the tax code in IRS is just 1000s of pages of small fine print. So you get to read through, right, and what we’re not, we’re not claiming that we know all 1000 pages. And that’s kind of part of the reason why we just FOCUS Online Business because the tax code is massive. And if you just go to a generalist, right, where they do all type of business, they do the brick and mortar, they do you know, they help tax firms do their business, they tell the law firm do debits do their taxes, they don’t, they don’t actually know all 1000 paid would like that 10,000 pages of the tax code, they also just applying very general tax knowledge to everything. And they’re just sprinkling it. And that’s usually not the way you want to approach your tax code, you want someone who focuses strictly on your type of niche, your type of business, and then knows deeply into the tax savings you can get for your business. And with that we have seen, you know, well clients be very surprised and happy, obviously, that when we presented them at the end of the year, or during their quarterly meetings, that they’re getting much more tax-saving than they then they believe and you know, we also send them what we call a tax recommendation report for like, like these other things you start doing to you know, at the end of the year or during the quarter is to increase your tax savings so that at the end of the day, you don’t owe as much. Right. And I would say that’s kind of like the the the what we tell them is that when you don’t always much in a way that’s tax saving, right? If you thought you had a 70,000 tax bill. Now you have a 30,000 tax bill, what are the differences? What are you going to pay out to the government for note for and for an I think I also think, Michael, it’s also a knowledge gap, right? A lot of people are not born to be to know accounting, who knows no finance day, but it’s very good entrepreneurs, there’s very good at running their business. And they should keep doing that. I’m just here saying, you guys.
And like if you’re like me, who wouldn’t want my dish shop over last year, I was like, oh, man, this is tough. I’m like staying up. Sometimes you have to am-pm talking to customers or figuring out like, for my fulfillment stuff like this is hard work. And I can’t imagine, you know, how you scale like seven, eight figures, how much crazier it is, of how much work to do. And you’re going to be doing those numbers and you can be making that money and you’re taking the risk to be an entrepreneur. Don’t give away your hard-earned money. Right? Like, don’t give away what you put all these hours into building this brand. And then just hand it over to Uncle Sam over there. As I hear you go is $70,000 free money for you Go-Go and give more vaccines out to people.
I have said. So the UK equivalent, I think there are some judge years ago law Lord, as we used to call ahead. It’s basically the equivalent before the Supreme Court existed in the UK, we have one now we copy the Americans. But he said something like tax evasion is obviously illegal. But tax avoidance is perfectly legal. Not only that is not a mere legal book, good practice to pay as little tax as you can.
And he was an expert in the law of enforcing the tax, even he said this guy basically was saying, pay as little tax as you’re legally allowed to. He was he’s basically, I don’t know, it’s a very British kind of eccentric thing for a tax person to say, he probably shouldn’t be advertising now. But he did. He said You should be trying to pay as little tax as you can caveat, right? legally, legally. So you’ve given a good flavor of what it is you do for your clients. But we’ve got a couple of different options for people who people are doing under 300,000 revenue a year, or based outside the US. And then a discovery call for those who are doing over 300,000 based in the US, which may be some listeners as well. So this talk is through what’s on offer for the listeners?
Yeah, definitely, uh, Michael, like I was mentioning, we do get a lot of DMS from folks that are just starting or haven’t done a lot of money yet but could grow to a big number. And we would love to help everyone right. But of course, everyone’s time is limited.
So what we did was we actually spent three months putting together a course without, you know, 20 years plus of knowing me and my partner Stanford, and it’s called Tax Free Ecom: Hyperdrive Your After-Tax Profit. And the point of this course is basically to give you that foundation that you were missing, you know, costs, sales, tax cost, tax planning, cause knowing all the IRS lingos right, so you don’t get lost in it. And then, of course, knowing how to get all the deductions that you didn’t know about and How to keep the money you have and grow it and the cash flow projection use me doing. And, of course, also retirement planning, we even go Dad, and for those who are trying to exit and do a valuation for their business, and I think it’s just a great, great tool, if they go and watch this course, just to kind of know that, you know, they will not, it’d be a good spot going forward, right? It’s a kind of step before you actually need professional help.
Usually, if you’re just starting, you’re only making 50 $200. And we’ve been like 100-200,000, you don’t actually need professional help, because it doesn’t make any difference. I would say after you do make, you know, doing okay, well above, you may want to get on a call with a CPAs prefer, and you want to kind of just lay down your business and say, hey, what can you help me with? What do you see in my business? And that’s kind of what we do is we get on a discovery call with them. And then we kind of, you know, ask a signed NDA to protect everyone to make sure we don’t we have a fiduciary duty not to anyway, but just to give them extra peace of mind, we sign an NDA with them and say, Hey, let us look at what you guys are doing your books, your finances, and we’ll give us just some, you know, really just complimentary pointers of how your business is running, how’s it going? And we find that point they can evaluate themselves, do I need to go and get actual professional help? Would they want to keep handling themselves, we leave that part up to them.
So we kind of give two options for people who are just starting and who are more established and actually need the professional support behind them. And that’s what we’re really all about, right? We provide, I would say year-round support right? We’re kind of just there in the background like hey, I need to call upon my CPA when your outsourced CFO office view well to give you the right guidance and point me in the right directions I can just really keep going my business taking it to the moon.
Excellent. So a couple of things the links folks for the course just go to amazingfba.com/freecash we’re not giving away free cash I guess I could call it free cash flow but what remember is so much more enticing when I click on it. Yeah. But that’s not what’s on often folks, literal dollars yet but you’ll get it paid pack from educating yourself. amazingfba.com/freecash. And then the discovery calls if you’re doing $300,000 a year or upwards and you’re based in the US I think needs to be isn’t it that you go to freecashflow.io/book.
So those are the ones if you listen to the podcast, obviously, you can check out the show notes at 10k collective comm as well if you’ve lost track of the URLs, The other thing I just want to say is this that I was speaking to a business broker actually knows a business acquirer, somebody who works for one of the biggest business acquires out there in the FPA space. And he said, Look, one of the most important things you can do is get a fractional CFO, in other words, of a person that you don’t imply for a time because you couldn’t afford it. But a really great person like you guys to be your own fractional financial director of in the UK, and actually, really take the responsibility to add the expertise to look at things through this kind of lens. Because the amount of difference it makes your business is startling. If you add $30,000 to your profit bottom line, then that’s going to really affect also I mean tax planning strictly doesn’t affect business value, in the sense that they take the pre-tax profit is the multiple the number to multiply. But if you’ve got more cash in your account, this year, next year, in the following year, when you come to sell your business, not only are you going to have more cash in your account, but you’re going to actually multiply that by three or four, whatever the multiple is you sell it for. So the future value of great input.
Now, when you really do the numbers on that can be astoundingly high. So I would just beg everyone out there if you don’t have an accountant, for goodness sake, get one. And if you don’t have a fractional CFO and you’re doing over $300,000, then really do check this sort of thing out because I think it’s absolutely I cannot stress enough how big the differences between businesses that have this and that don’t because I hear both sides of this equation from the businesses that are falling apart, I see the ones that are killing it. And this is part of the picture.
So Alan fantastic, fantastic wisdom stages. The last question for you is simply, what is it? What questions should I have asked you?
Why could I mean No, I think I think Michael, honestly, you cover a great range of topics already in this podcast episode in life. And I mean, the only thing I just want to add is, you know, if anyone is kind of getting serious about their business and interested in these topics is definitely do reach out to someone who’s you know, an expert in this field, and just ask them a couple of questions. No, no, most of them are really, I mean, I hope hopefully, it wasn’t really nice and just, we’ll just shoot you over some, you know, some things you really should be looking at just on an on a very high, you know, big picture level, right?
Some things that you may not even be thinking about and having that knowledge base about, you should just kind of just thinking about and maybe point you in the right direction even right. And I think I think knowledge is just just just crucial, just this key and this and that just knowing it is just us know the right question, right? Even this part of the course when we have our fellow students they say yeah, like, I know, I don’t actually want to do accounting. I don’t actually want to do tax myself, but just knowing it means that you know, when they go and interview a CPA, they asked the right Question. Hey, are you certified? Hey, do you understand online business lingo? Do you know what PPC is? You know how Amazon FBA business works you know about the storage fees and the payout timetable, right? And just have known the right things to even ask, well make sure you hire the right people for your team, right? Knowing that you’re not going to bring in someone that just go into a shoddy job and not really take care of things and address your point, my goal, we actually kind of went down that line of business, you came to us approaching us saying, Hey, I’m running a really big business.
I’m about I have the audience guys coming after me. Like, who wants to buy my business? Who wants to value my business? And then I asked them, okay, great. Can I see your balance sheet? Can I see an income statement? They’re like, what is that? I don’t know, and responsible. I was a VC guy that would buy a business without knowing that they have some sort of balance sheet income statement. I don’t I can’t see anyone doing that. Right. Yeah. So this person was obviously not ready. And he was kind of like a little bit of denial mode. But then, when I approached him to ask you say you probably need these things, he kind of like No, and I don’t, I guess I’ll just be just fine. And as far as I know, I would have guessed so his business yet. I check. I check. His registration is still under him. I’m like, Yeah, he needs these things in place. Like No, no sane VC is gonna buy a business where the business owner does not understand his own numbers, doesn’t understand his forecast, and does understand is how the business is going to go, right? No, no, you got to be crazy, or you just have a lot of money to burn, right like SoftBank or something. But yeah,
I don’t think anybody’s gonna do that. To be honest, I’ve spoken to and I am not a business buyer or broker, but I’ve spoken to, must be about 12 or something most in the last few months. And yeah, every single person wants a clean financials bar. Nobody. I mean that. Yeah, there was nobody I’ve ever spoken to. Who’s a serious business buyer or broker? Yeah. So you’re 100%. Right. So yeah, if that’s you, maybe you need to get in touch with Alan and get yourself sorted.
But Meantime, it just remains for me to say Alan great topics, you’ve really given us a lot to think about a really great, clear discussion about working capital, one of my big things to discuss, to answer the question, How much money do we need to grow our business to the point where it’s going to be what we really want it to be? And great advice on the sales and tax planning generally. So just remains for me to say a big, big thank you for coming on the show.
Yeah, definitely. 100% Michael, and I’m happy to share and happy to share this knowledge with folks and hopefully, they were able to take something away for them and, you know, really use it to grow the business and gain the knowledge to ask the right questions to the accountant, right, hoping to hire the right one. Great stuff.
Thanks so much for listening to the 10k collective podcast for six and seven figure Amazon sellers. I really hope you found this show helpful.
We’ve run interactive small group masterminds for six and seven-figure Amazon sellers since September 2017. Members report things like I couldn’t have done it without you and find each other a great resource, particularly in challenging times. Our biggest seller to date has broken through the eight figures a year mark in 2020. Members of the 10k collective mastermind are not newcomers. They sell private label or custom products on Amazon and they make a minimum of about $350,000 a year or 300,000 pounds a year in revenue, in most cases, much higher than that. We’re currently running both online and offline versions of the mastermind.
To find out more about that go to www.amazonmastermind.com. That’s amazonmastermind.com. Thank you very much for listening to this show. Thanks so much for listening to the 10k collective podcast for six and seven-figure Amazon sellers. I really hope you found this show helpful.