Small business sales tax software 101: How to choose the best option for your business


Stripe Tax lets you calculate, collect, and report tax on global payments with a single integration. Know where to register, automatically collect the right amount of tax, and access the reports you need to file returns.

Learn more 
  1. Introduction
  2. What is sales tax software?
  3. How does sales tax software work?
  4. Why is sales tax software important for small businesses?
  5. Benefits of using sales tax software for small businesses
  6. How to choose a sales tax software
    1. Knowing what your business needs
    2. Researching available options
    3. Features and functionality
    4. Evaluating ease of use and user experience
    5. Integration with existing business systems
    6. Scalability and future-proofing
    7. Security and data protection
    8. Cost considerations and ROI

Sales tax regulations can be intimidating for small businesses. Some states, such as New Hampshire, levy no sales tax, while in others, such as New York, localities add their own rates on top of the state’s base rate. And different goods and services might be taxed at additional rates. For example, in Minnesota, businesses with liquor licenses must charge customers the state’s 6.875% general sales tax rate, as well as a 2.5% tax on gross liquor sales.

Sales tax software for small businesses addresses these challenges by automating the process of calculating, collecting, and remitting sales tax, which saves time and reduces errors that could lead to penalties or audits.

Below, we’ll explain what sales tax software can do for small businesses, including the benefits of these solutions and how to choose the right software.

What’s in this article?

  • What is sales tax software?
  • How does sales tax software work?
  • Why is sales tax software important for small businesses?
  • Benefits of using sales tax software for small businesses
  • How to choose a sales tax software

What is sales tax software?

Sales tax software is a digital solution that helps small businesses collect, report, and submit sales tax. This software automates the process of calculating the correct amount of sales tax to charge on products or services, based on the location of the business and its customers.

How does sales tax software work?

Sales tax software for small businesses simplifies and automates the process of managing sales tax. Here’s how it typically works:

  • Integration with sales systems
    The software connects to the business’s sales systems, such as point-of-sale (POS) systems, online shopping carts, or accounting software, and accesses the required sales data automatically.

  • Determining taxability
    Different products and services are taxed in different ways. The software identifies which items are taxable and at what rate. This is particularly important for businesses that sell a variety of products or services, some of which might be tax-exempt or subject to different tax rates.

  • Location-based calculation
    Sales tax rates vary by location, and some jurisdictions have multiple layers of tax (e.g., state, county, city). The software uses the customer’s delivery or billing address to determine the exact tax rate that applies to each sale, ensuring the business charges the correct amount of tax.

  • Automatic calculation
    During a sale, the software calculates the sales tax based on the product’s taxability and the applicable tax rate for the customer’s location.

  • Reporting and filing
    The software compiles sales data and calculates the total sales tax the business owes for each tax period. Many sales tax software solutions can generate reports that break down taxes by jurisdiction, which is helpful for understanding tax obligations and preparing for filings.

  • Tax return preparation and filing
    Some sales tax software includes features that assist businesses with preparing and filing sales tax returns. The software can populate the necessary forms with the collected data and, in some cases, can submit these forms electronically to the relevant tax authorities.

  • Updates and compliance
    Tax laws and rates can change. Sales tax software providers typically update their systems to reflect these changes, allowing businesses to remain compliant without needing to track these developments themselves.

  • Additional features
    Sales tax software might provide extra features such as exemption certificate management, audit trails for compliance checks, and data analytics for business insights.

Sales tax software can save small businesses significant time and stress by reducing the likelihood of errors in tax calculation and keeping up-to-date with tax laws. It also enables staff to focus on other aspects of the business, rather than spending unnecessary time and energy on tax compliance.

Why is sales tax software important for small businesses?

Sales tax software is an important asset for small businesses because it manages tax compliance, reduces the risk of costly errors, and scales with the business—all while improving the overall customer experience and contributing to decision-making. For a small business, investing in tax management software can be a key step in its financial health.

  • Complex sales tax laws
    Sales tax laws are complicated and vary widely across jurisdictions. A small business might lack the resources to keep up with these rules and rates. Sales tax software automates this process, maintaining compliance with local, state, and federal tax laws without requiring the business owner to become an expert in tax regulations.

  • Time and resource savings
    Calculating sales tax manually for each transaction is time-consuming and can lead to errors. Using tax software can free up valuable time and resources.

  • Error reduction
    Mistakes in calculating sales tax can result in underpayment or overpayment. Underpayment could lead to penalties and interest charges, while overpayment affects a business’s bottom line. Sales tax software minimizes these errors by providing accurate, real-time calculations.

  • Audit risk reduction
    Inaccurate sales tax filings increase the risk of an audit, which can be a stressful and expensive process. By maintaining accuracy in sales tax calculations and record-keeping, sales tax software reduces the likelihood of an audit.

  • Scalability
    Sales tax obligations become more complicated as a business grows, especially if it starts selling in multiple states or jurisdictions. Sales tax software can scale with the business, handling increased volume and complexity without the need for additional staff.

  • Improved customer experience
    Incorrect sales tax calculation can lead to discrepancies that affect the customer experience. Sales tax software verifies that customers are charged the correct amount of tax, helping maintain customer trust and satisfaction.

  • Reporting and analytics
    Sales tax software often includes reporting and analytics features that can provide businesses with valuable insights into sales trends and tax liabilities, leading to more informed decisions.

  • Easier tax filing and compliance
    Sales tax software frequently includes features to assist with tax filing, such as compiling reports and managing filings. This saves time and ensures that filings are accurate and submitted on time.

Benefits of using sales tax software for small businesses

The benefits of using sales tax software for small businesses are substantial. They include:

  • Accuracy in tax calculations
    One of the most substantial benefits of sales tax software is accuracy. Tax laws vary by state and locality, and the software can determine the correct tax rates and apply them to each transaction. This improves compliance and contributes to stronger customer relationships.

  • Time savings
    Calculating sales taxes manually is labor-intensive. Sales tax software relieves this burden for businesses so they can spend time and resources on other areas.

  • Ease of compliance
    Staying compliant with tax laws can be a challenge for businesses that operate in multiple jurisdictions. Sales tax software stays updated with the latest tax laws, rates, and rules, making it easier for businesses to comply.

  • Reduced risk of penalties and audits
    Errors in tax calculation or filing can lead to penalties, interest charges, or even audits. By providing accurate calculations and record-keeping, sales tax software reduces these risks.

  • Integration with other business systems
    Many sales tax software solutions can integrate with other business systems, such as accounting software, ecommerce platforms, and POS systems. This integration streamlines the sales process, ensuring accurate tax calculations are applied automatically to each sale.

  • Improved record-keeping and reporting
    Sales tax software often includes comprehensive reporting features, allowing businesses to easily track and analyze sales and tax data. This record-keeping is important for financial planning, budgeting, and preparing for tax filings.

  • Simplification of the filing process
    Many sales tax software solutions have features that help with the tax filing process, including automating tax returns and submitting them directly to tax authorities. This simplification helps maintain timely and accurate filings.

  • Scalability
    Sales tax software can scale with the business, handling more transactions and increasing complexity without the need for additional staff or resources.

  • Improved customer experience
    Accurate sales tax calculation helps maintain trust with customers by ensuring they are charged the correct amount of tax, preventing confusion and potential disputes.

  • Data security
    Sales tax software typically includes security measures to protect sensitive financial data.

How to choose a sales tax software

When choosing the right sales tax software for your business, here’s what you should think about:

Knowing what your business needs

Assessing your business size and tax complexity

  • Size and volume of sales: Determine the scale of your operations. How many transactions do you process daily? The volume of sales directly impacts the level of sophistication you need in a sales tax software.

  • Variety of transactions: Consider the types of transactions you handle. Do you sell a diverse range of products or services, some of which might have different taxability rules? The more varied your products and services, the more involved your software’s tax calculation engine should be.

  • Current tax handling: Evaluate how you're currently managing sales tax. Are you doing it manually or using a basic system? Understanding the limitations of your current strategy can guide you as you upgrade.

Identifying specific sales tax requirements

  • Multistate operations: If you operate in multiple states, you need software capable of dealing with different tax laws. The software should automatically update to reflect changes in rates and rules across jurisdictions.

  • Local taxation challenges: In addition to state taxes, some localities (such as cities or counties) impose additional taxes. Your software should be able to calculate these local taxes based on customer location.

  • Special tax situations: Are there specific tax rules relevant to your industry or products? For example, some products might be exempt from tax in certain states. Your software should be able to handle these special cases.

Anticipating future growth and changes in sales volume

  • Scalability: Look for software that can grow with your business. If you anticipate an increase in sales volume or expansion into new markets, your software should be able to accommodate this without requiring a complete system change.

  • Adaptability to changes: Choose software that is updated regularly to keep up with legislative changes and can adapt to new types of products or services you might provide in the future.

  • Long-term support and development: Consider the software provider’s reputation for long-term support and ongoing development. A software that’s updated regularly and supported is key for long-term planning.

Researching available options

Overview of different sales tax software solutions
  • Market landscape: There’s a range of sales tax software available, and each varies in features, scalability, integration capabilities, and pricing. Some are part of larger accounting or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, while others are standalone solutions that focus solely on sales tax.

  • Types of solutions: You’ll find solutions that cater specifically to small businesses, providing simplicity and ease of use. Others might be designed for larger enterprises, and provide extensive customization and advanced features. There are also industry-specific solutions customized to the unique needs of certain sectors.

Key features to look for

  • Accuracy and compliance: The software should calculate sales tax accurately across jurisdictions and stay up-to-date with the latest tax laws and rates.

  • Integration capabilities: It should easily integrate with your existing business systems such as ecommerce platforms, accounting software, and POS systems.

  • Ease of use: A user-friendly interface is important for effective use, especially if you don't have a dedicated tax expert on your team.

  • Reporting and analytics: Comprehensive reporting tools can help with preparing tax filings and gaining insight into your sales tax liabilities.

  • Customer support: Strong customer support is key, including resources for troubleshooting and guidance on using the software effectively.

Evaluating well-known providers vs. emerging solutions

  • Established providers
    These companies have a proven track record and typically provide more comprehensive features and stability. They often have extensive resources for customer support and a large user base, which can be reassuring. Despite these benefits, their solutions might be more costly and complicated than a small business needs.

  • Emerging solutions
    Newer providers might promise innovative features and more competitive pricing. They could be more flexible and willing to adapt their product to suit specific customer needs. However, these solutions might lack the comprehensive features of more established providers, and their long-term viability is less certain.

Features and functionality

  • Automated tax calculation and compliance
    The core function of sales tax software is to automate the calculation of sales tax for each transaction. This feature saves time and can prevent errors in tax calculations. Compliance is another important aspect. The software should automatically adhere to the applicable tax laws and regulations, reducing the risk of noncompliance and related penalties. Look for software that can handle a variety of tax scenarios, including different product taxability rules and special tax rates.

  • Integration with existing accounting and POS systems
    Integration capabilities are an important part of these software systems. The sales tax software should easily connect with your existing accounting and POS systems, simplifying the process of tax calculations. Proper integration eliminates the need for manual data entry, which saves time and reduces the potential for human error in transferring data between systems.

  • Multi-state and local taxation support
    If your business operates in multiple states or sells to customers in different jurisdictions, the software must support multi-state and local taxation. This means it can accurately calculate taxes based on the varying rates and rules of each state and locality. The software should be able to handle destination-based taxes, origin-based taxes, and any special taxation rules unique to certain jurisdictions.

  • Real-time tax rate updates and changes in regulations
    Tax laws and rates are subject to change, and keeping up with these changes can be difficult. Sales tax software should provide real-time updates to guarantee you're always charging the correct rate. This feature is necessary to maintain compliance and avoid the risks associated with outdated tax information.

Evaluating ease of use and user experience

  • User interface and navigation
    The software’s user interface (UI) should be accessible and intuitive, with easy-to-access sections such as reports, tax calculations, and settings. Analyze the overall visual appeal of the interface: a clean and modern design can improve user engagement and reduce fatigue during long periods of use.

  • Accessibility and support for non-tech-savvy users
    The software should be accessible to users with varying levels of technical proficiency, including non-tech-savvy users. Look for software that provides instructions and guidance within the application. Features such as tooltips, help icons, or an easily accessible user manual can make a big difference. It should be easy for users to learn basic functions, even for those who are not familiar with sales tax software.

  • Availability of customer support and training resources
    Strong customer support includes a responsive support team that customers can reach through multiple channels such as phone, email, or live chat. Training resources are equally important. Check if the software provider has training materials such as video tutorials, webinars, FAQs, or user forums. These resources can onboard new users and encourage ongoing learning. Consider the support team’s responsiveness. Timely and effective support can reduce downtime and frustration when issues arise.

Integration with existing business systems

  • Compatibility with current business infrastructure
    Assess the software’s compatibility with your existing business infrastructure. Your choice of software should work well with the systems you already have in place, such as accounting software, ecommerce platforms, and POS systems. Check for any technical requirements that the sales tax software might have. Make sure that your current hardware and software meet these requirements to avoid additional investments or system upgrades. Consider the data formats that your existing systems use. The sales tax software should be able to import and export data in these formats for ease of data flow.

  • Ease of integration and data synchronization
    The process of integrating the sales tax software with your current systems should be straightforward. Look for solutions that offer simple, step-by-step integration guides or automated setup processes. Data synchronization is another important consideration: the software should be able to synchronize data in real time or on a scheduled basis to verify that all systems are up-to-date with the latest sales and tax information. Test the integration process, if possible. A trial run can help identify potential issues and make sure the integration does not disrupt existing operations.

  • Impact on existing workflows and processes
    Evaluate how introducing new sales tax software will impact your current workflows and processes. Your team will need time to adjust to the new system, so choose software that provides intuitive operation and minimal disruption to current practices.

Scalability and future-proofing

  • Capability to scale with business growth
    The software should be able to deal with increased transaction volumes as your business grows. Geographic scalability is another important factor. If you plan to expand your business into new states or countries, the software should support the tax laws and calculations for these new areas. Look for software that has multiple tiers or plans, so you can upgrade as your business needs change. This allows you to start with a plan that suits your current size and scale up as needed.

  • Flexibility to adapt to changing tax laws
    Tax laws and regulations are constantly evolving. Your software should be able to adapt to these changes without requiring extensive manual intervention. The software should receive regular updates to reflect new tax rates and rules. Check how these updates are managed: are they automatic, or do they require manual implementation? Consider the software’s track record for keeping up with legislative changes. You can gauge this by looking at user reviews or asking the provider for references.

  • Options for adding new features or services
    As your business evolves, you might need additional features from your sales tax software. Look for solutions that provide a range of add-ons or modules that you can integrate as needed. Check if the provider has custom development services or allows third-party integrations that can extend the software’s functionality. Regular software updates that include new features and improvements can indicate a forward-thinking provider that will remain relevant as market demands and technology evolve.

Security and data protection

  • Security measures for protecting financial data
    The software should have comprehensive security measures in place to protect sensitive financial data. This includes strong encryption protocols for data in transit and at rest. Look for software that requires multi-factor authentication. Ask about the provider’s security policies and procedures. They should have a clear plan for regularly updating and testing their security measures to defend against new threats.

  • Compliance with data protection and privacy laws
    The software must comply with relevant data protection and privacy laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This is important for legal compliance and for maintaining customer trust. Assess how the software handles customer data. It should collect and store only the necessary information and provide transparent policies on how this data is used and protected. Check if the provider undergoes regular audits and complies with industry standards, such as ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management.

  • Features for data backup and disaster recovery
    The software should have reliable data backup and recovery systems in place, so your financial data can be restored quickly in case of data loss or a system breach. Your provider should also have a disaster recovery plan, and provide a well-defined path for data recovery and restoring operations in the event of a major incident, such as a server failure or natural disaster. Consider the frequency of backups and the ease of restoring data. Regular, automatic backups are ideal, and you should be able to recover your data without excessive downtime.

Cost considerations and ROI

  • Comparison of pricing models
    Sales tax software providers often have different pricing models. Common models include subscription-based pricing, pay-per-transaction, or a combination of both. Subscription plans can be tiered, based on features, transaction volumes, or the number of users. Learn the specifics of these tiers so you can choose a plan that matches your business needs without overpaying for unnecessary features. With pay-per-transaction models, think about the volume of transactions your business handles. This model may be cost-effective for businesses with lower transaction volumes but can become costly as volumes increase.

  • Assessing total cost of ownership
    The total cost of ownership goes beyond the initial subscription or purchase price. Be aware of additional costs such as implementation, training, integration, and any potential upgrade costs. Evaluate the need for ongoing support or additional services, which could incur extra charges. Consider the longevity of the software. Investing in a more expensive option that is scalable could be more cost-effective in the long term compared to a cheaper, less capable solution.

  • Evaluating the potential return on investment (ROI)
    ROI is about more than direct financial return. Consider the time savings and increased accuracy in tax calculations and filings, which can reduce the risk of penalties and audits. Assess the impact on staff productivity. A user-friendly and efficient system can free up your team’s time to focus on core business activities, potentially driving more revenue. It can improve compliance, reduce stress for your team, and strengthen customer relationships due to accurate billing.

When evaluating the cost and potential ROI of sales tax software, it’s important to look at the pricing model, total cost of ownership, and the broader benefits the software brings to your business. A solution that seems more expensive at first might result in greater value in the long run through time savings, increased accuracy, and scalability.

The content in this article is for general information and education purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Stripe does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, adequacy, or currency of the information in the article. You should seek the advice of a competent attorney or accountant licensed to practice in your jurisdiction for advice on your particular situation.

Ready to get started?

Create an account and start accepting payments—no contracts or banking details required. Or, contact us to design a custom package for your business.