Know Your Sales Tax Risks

Preface: Sales tax compliance is advised for every business. While sales tax laws are unique from state-to-state and item-to-item, analysis of sales tax risks on business products or services is advised. Here’s why.

Know Your Sales Tax Risks

By Jacob M. Dietz, CPA

Should you get a sales tax analysis?

Imagine an entrepreneur sitting at their desk opening mail. Suddenly they come to an official-looking letter from the government of another state. Hesitatingly, they open the letter. It states that their business owes tens of thousands in sales tax and penalties and interest.

How did the business get into this predicament? The business tried to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s. None of us are old enough to have paid taxes to Caesar in the first century, but in the 21st century taxes are complex. An honest businessperson could find themselves with sales or use tax liabilities that they didn’t know they owed. Consider conducting a sales tax analysis to review if your business may have some sales and use tax liabilities.

Small Equipment Dealer

How could a business unknowingly rack up a sales tax liability? Assume Reuben is an equipment dealer who sells small wagons to farmers and gardeners. Most of his sales are to other dealers or to farmers, so most of his sales are exempt. Every month or two, however, he will do an online out-of-state sale to a customer who is not a farmer.

Does Reuben need to file sales tax for his out-of-state sales?

Reuben may want to ask a CPA to do a sales tax analysis for his company. Some questions they may examine are:

  1. In which states is Reuben selling?
  2. To what kind of customer is he selling?
  3. What type of product is he selling?
  4. How many sales dollars and transactions are there?

Reuben asks his accountant “suppose I sell $250,000 of nontaxable sales to XYZ state, and then I sell $20,000 of taxable sales. Must I file sales tax in that state?”

Taxability Varies by Jurisdiction

Assume Justin owns a clothing company in Pennsylvania. Based on the type of clothing he sells and Pennsylvania’s sales tax rules, he files no sales tax returns in PA. Justin is a very talented entrepreneur, and his clothing business continues to grow from small to large. Justin soon starts selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in clothing to other states. Since PA generally does not tax clothing, although there are exceptions, Justin assumed other states would not tax clothing.

To be on the cautious side, however, Justin decided to have his accountant evaluate his sales tax practices. The accountant realized that Justin did have nexus (substantial connection) with other states that do tax clothing. Based on the thresholds in the other states Justin should be filing. Fortunately, Justin had only recently reached the thresholds, so he was able to get his taxes in order quickly.

What would have happened if Justin had not asked his accountant to analyze his tax situation? Perhaps eventually another state would have audited Justin. It could have forced him to pay the sales tax with penalties. That would have been a blow to Justin’s bottom line. Since he was not collecting the sales tax to pay from customers, he may have been forced to pay it with the company’s money instead of the customer’s money.


Assume Brendan operates a handyman business. He fixes a variety of items, depending on the customers’ needs. One day, Brendan was called out to the home of a sweet elderly couple that needed some items fixed. First, Brendan fixed their chair. Next Brendan fixed their roof.

Is his labor taxable? The labor for the chair repair was taxable, since a chair is a taxable item. The labor for the house roof repair was not taxable, since the item was real property not subject to tax.

How can Brendan keep the taxability straight? He can withstand scorching heat while fixing a roof, but sales tax rules give him a headache.


Is sales and use tax compliance complex for construction companies? Generally, in PA construction contractors pay sales tax on materials that they buy, and then they generally do not charge sales tax on the finished building. Some other sales tax jurisdictions, however, treat it differently. If a construction contractor is working outside PA in one of those other jurisdictions, then they may want to know what those rules are.

What happens if a construction contractor buys materials in one taxing jurisdiction, but builds the project in another jurisdiction?

Outsource your Research

You do not want to be the honest entrepreneur opening the mail and finding that your business has not rendered unto Caesar what is owed. But what can you do? If you are like many business owners, you would rather fix a roof or prepare an estimate than figure out sales tax. Consider outsourcing your sales and use tax research to a trusted CPA.

This article is general in nature, and it does not contain legal advice. Please contact your accountant to see what applies in your specific situation.

Jake Dietz is a CPA, Business Consultant, with Sauder & Stoltzfus, LLC, a certified public accounting firm, in Ephrata, PA, specializing in entrepreneurial business accounting and tax services, bookkeeping, business valuation, and peripheral CPA services. Jake can be contacted at 717-961-9811, or

Achieving Elite Entrepreneurial Business Meeting Traction (Segment III)

Preface: Same person with a different question; same person with a different mindset; same person with a different and [now achieved] effective business meeting(s).

Achieving Elite Entrepreneurial Business Meeting Traction (Segment III) 

“Elite” entrepreneurial business meetings are achievable not on the premise of the business worlds definition of a [business] groups superior [meeting] successes or abilities, but on the timeless principle that [you and] your business is “elite” compared to one key standard — what your business meeting was yesterday.

Yes, there is only one business you should want to superior meetings to, and that is your own. Every minute you spend wishing you had someone else’s business meetings, is a minute spent entirely wasted towards developing and improving your own. Secondly, if you had that “other” [business] meeting, it would likely be like your own, because you’d be there.

So, does the mindset of business meeting participants determine the keystone effectiveness of the meeting? Maybe? If coffee and donuts influence and green-visor the characteristics of a business meeting mindsets, then the answer could be a resounding Yes.

A large-scale study was conducted to investigate the mindsets of business leaders when they were at their most effective and delivering their best results. In-depth structured interviews were conducted with 667 executives over a ten-year period. Eight distinct mindset themes were identified, one of the most common being a “Purposeful” theme, exhibited by 82% of the leaders. A closer examination revealed two major subcategories of the Purposeful theme

  • Impact on the World
  • God/Spirituality


The Purposeful mindset theme points to a contextual frame that is important to leaders, and seems to imbue them with a level of personal power and sense of mission that translates into high levels of accomplishment.

The link on to the research report unfortunately says ……. The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

Continuing further now with the keystone question of does the mindset of business meeting participants determine the business meetings effectiveness, continues to highlight this fact with the following excerpt as an interesting research from

“Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Carol Dweck we now understand a simple idea: having a fixed mindset or a growth mindset shapes how we interact with others.

Individuals with a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed with dedication and hard work. Their focus is on learning. Those with a fixed mindset believe their talents are carved in stone and cannot change. Because of this, meetings called to solve problems or make decisions with others can be a trial for folks with fixed mindsets and a learning-fest for those with growth mindsets.

The mindsets are easy to spot. Those with a fixed mindset focus on being smart and right. If they are extraverts, they tend to talk with great confidence about THE right answer. They avoid taking risks or engaging in exploratory conversations without preconceived right answers because they fear their perceived inadequacies might get exposed. However, if those with a fixed mindset are introverts, they might stonewall, stay silent, and wait until the end to step in with their version of “This is the way it is.”

Those with growth mindsets focus on learning and finding effective solutions. They listen more, ask questions of genuine curiosity, and are open to the possibility that their perspective might be ill-informed or just wrong. And, according to Carol Dweck, people with a growth mindset achieve more because they focus on learning and less on looking smart.

As the calendar pages turn, the right mindset for business meetings(s) that too often is fabricated with a proverbial coffee and donuts is most effectively achieved with simply more effective and inquisitive questions per research.

We’ll wrap-up with some advice from

When you’re heading to a business meeting, participating in a business meeting, or departing a business meeting — are you asking questions like this?

  • Who is to blame?
  • Why can’t they perform?
  • How can I [or the business] prove I’m right?
  • Why aren’t we winning?
  • What could we lose?
  • Why bother?


Sipping coffee and holding a donut will improve the above mindset created from those questions, yet there exist a different [and more effective] approach to the business meeting with the right questions; and that will lead to a more effective [an elite] business meeting.

  • What are my [or the businesses] goals?
  • What am I responsible for [in this business]?
  • What are the facts and what am I assuming wrong?
  • How can I help?
  • What do our customers want?
  • What steps can we take to improve the situation?
  • What’s possible [for this business]?


That friends, is an accountants perspective on the difference between the superior business meeting(s) you wish for, and business meeting(s) you have, both for you and the participants.

Same person with a different question; same person with a different mindset; same person with a different and [now achieved] effective business meeting(s).

Elite (Entrepreneurial) Business Meeting Traction (Segment II)

Preface: Every business meeting planned, should advisedly begin with these two questions. First, what does this group have to meet about? And, secondly, who are the right people for this meeting?

Elite (Entrepreneurial) Business Meeting Traction (Segment II)

Credit: Donald J. Sauder, CPA, CVA

Patrick Lencioni, president of the Table Group has this to say about the great meetings. “Meetings are the “linchpin” of everything,” “If someone says you have an hour to investigate [research] a company, I wouldn’t look at the balance sheet. [or cash flow statements] I’d watch their executive team in a meeting for an hour. If they are clear and focused and have the board on the edge of their seats, I’d say this is a good company worth investing in.” Article: Meetings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Knowledge @ Wharton.

Interesting perspective, yes? Yet, very effective entrepreneur. If you want to hear the iTunes your business meetings broadcast, this is likely how you can determine quickly if your business meetings is achieving the ultimate purpose, with the listeners hearing and departing the meeting acting with increased strategic objectives, i.e. gaining traction.

There are numerous types of business meetings: “retreat meetings,” “executive level meetings,” or say “operational or company meetings.” Lencioni provides some key questions with regards to preparation for a [entrepreneurial] business meeting. First, what does this group have to meet about? And, secondly, who are the right people for this meeting?

It helps to start with the Why? The objective of the meeting is a good starting point for who should be in the room. Why is this meeting necessary? Why does the group need to meet? Say, is the meeting to build teamwork cohesiveness, communicate information, develop strategic goals for the enterprise, train the team on new business processes or field processes, develop specific skills of the group, i.e. customer relations, new software, or field technologies, or is the meeting to simply gather information from field members and office staff?

Once you have the right people in the room, the next question is: What is the purpose of the meeting? “That may sound pretty obvious,” notes Lencioni, “but it’s amazing how many times people come together and are not really clear about the purpose. One is to make a decision or have a discussion that will lead to a decision. Or is the purpose to give updates and share information? A lot of times people find themselves in a meeting where the primary purpose is to receive information, and that’s a poor use of people’s time. Those meetings can be easily dispensed with and can be an email instead that people read in their own time. The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions.” Article Meetings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Knowledge @ Wharton.

“Recent research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. ….Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges…”

In the framework of the right people, can we challenge the continual table or desk and chair discussion, and consider in some instances HBR article: How to Do Walking Meetings Right from: Russel Clayton Christoper Thomas and Jack Smother.

Fran is part of a growing trend known as walking meetings or “walk and talk…..”

A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held……. Likewise, Melmed finds that merely holding some of her meetings while walking has given her the necessary “unplugging” time she needs in order to be an effective writer.

Recent research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. ….Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings.

Furthermore, Dr. Eytan believes walking meetings lead to better employee engagement by breaking down barriers between supervisor and subordinate or between coworkers. He sees the bonding achieved through walking meetings as a micro version of the bonding that can be experienced when coworkers travel together on business trips.

 “……if your [business] team is clear and focused on how to proceed effectively after the (discussion) meeting, the time was invested well.”

To be sure, not all meetings are suitable for walking meetings (and not everyone is physically able to participate in walking meetings). Sometimes it is valuable to have materials or a whiteboard close at hand….The best candidates for walking meetings are ones where colleagues are conferring on decisions or exploring possible solutions. Indeed, in our survey, participants holding managerial and professional positions experienced more of a creativity boost from walking meetings than those in technical or administrative type jobs (though all categories realized some benefits).

Reading a quote from Edmond Mbiaka “The habit of talking the talk has distracted many people from walking the walk” is too relevant to business meetings, because the appraisal value of the meetings, i.e. the discussion, will only be realized with the speed and achievement of the destination from walking the talk on implementation, e.g. if your business team is clear and focused on how to proceed effectively after the (discussion) meeting,  the time was invested well. You’ll walk out of that meeting and be an “elite” business, as a result of the effective traction from the business meeting.

Achieving Elite Business Meeting Traction

Preface: If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’ Quote: Dave Barry

Achieving Elite Business Meeting Traction

Credit: Donald J. Sauder, CPA, CVA

A great business meeting for countless entrepreneurs is too often considered worse than say a bad day hiking. Why? In this blog series, we’ll discuss the problems of business meetings, and provide tools to solve effectively that problem with an understanding of the key objectives and purposes of business meetings.

Many entrepreneurs are rarely overly experienced in business operations and therefore do not thoroughly understanding the purpose and effective structure of business meetings. This results in a typical unappreciated and misunderstood hour or two of the day that detracts from other business tasks they (or team members) excel in, e.g. fieldwork or sales.

“Effective business meetings have 1) an objective; 2) they are an efficient and a wisely invested use of participant’s time; and 3) the participants agree that the meeting was sensible, and worthwhile.”

“I just wasted an hour!” “What progress was gained?” We have entirely too many (meetings)!” “We always talk about the same problems!” “(s)he always dominates the conversation!” “Did you see him/her on his laptop answering emails?” Once the participant complaints start about business meetings, what is the (re)solution?

Effective business meetings have 1) an objective; 2) they are an efficient and a wisely invested use of participant’s time; and 3) the participants agree that the meeting was sensible, and worthwhile. If the meeting objective is met with proper preparation and an efficient process, then the participants agree that it was worthwhile, e.g. your meeting was a success. They (meetings) should all be like that — right?

A non-business example of a successful meeting: attending church every Sunday. It is for a 1) specific objective, 2) time wisely invested, and 3) participants for the most part agree it was sensible and worthwhile. The board was successful!

“If you suggest great coffee and donuts will make up for uncomfortable chairs, and a boring or lengthy meeting discussion, you’re probably right.”


Nothing can drain the energy from a room quite like waiting for the person in charge to show up. Why do so many in positions of power fall into the bad habit of being late for meetings? Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s?

Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the boss may arrive is a waste of a precious resource. When establishing the informal rules of an organization, employees take their cues from the person in the corner office. If that person wants meetings to start on time, meetings will start on time.

Terry Lundgren, the chairman of Macy’s, has never hesitated to enforce a strict policy of on-time meetings. “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because the meeting’s going to start at 8,” he said. “Busy people that can’t get off the last phone call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.”

Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly. “I like to have an agenda that we think through,” Adam Bryant has conducted hundreds of interviews with C.E.O.s about leadership for the Corner Office series for the NY Times.

If you suggest great coffee and donuts will make up for uncomfortable chairs, and a boring or lengthy meeting discussion, you’re probably right. But was the objective of the meeting effectively achieved? Will (your) business develop and flourish further because of the business meeting(s)?

One thing’s for sure. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting”. Quote from Steve Covey. First, you need to realign the meeting roster; this is the approach to plans and duties for meetings.

Start your business meetings with Good News! Talk about what’s great; e.g. new customers, YoY sales volume increases, new employee(s), plans for future, promotions, employee anniversaries since hiring, the holiday banquet or summer picnic, goals successfully completed since prior meetings, etc.

But before you start the meeting, you need an agenda. If your business meeting leader doesn’t prepare an agenda, offer to prepare or help them with that. Step up to plate and take the initiative to work towards elite business meetings. If you are the meeting leader, make sure your agenda is prepared, and distributed at least 30 minutes before the meeting.

If your business meetings are 50%+ communication and passing along information about departments, projects, or business plans and goals, do you really need the meeting?

Five minutes of an hour business meeting communicating information to the group isn’t a real problem. But 30 minutes of an hour-long business meeting, would more effectively be managed with many teams from say an email to the entire group sharing the necessary information and communications on the business. Then a follow-up meeting that involves successful collaboration and insightful Q&A on the information from the email.

To be continued….