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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Use Tax Lookup Tables

Source: Kentucky 2014 Individual Tax Form Instructions
 I like use tax lookup tables. These are tables a few states allow for individuals to estimate their use tax owed, which they then include on their state income tax form to become use tax compliant.  No need to keep records of all use tax transactions.  I'm not sure what data and projections states use to create the look-up tables.  I compare three state tables in this post, originally posted on

In preparing state income tax returns for 2014, many individuals will see a line on that form for paying their use tax. The majority of states have such a line. A few states take that good idea one step further and make it easy to put a number on that line by using a "look-up" table. The table shows an estimate of use tax based on the individual's income. There might also be an adjustment for items purchased at a cost over a specified amount, such as $1,000 used in California.
What data and assumptions go into creating these look-up tables?  I have no idea and cannot find anything about this.  So, I decided to look at the look-up tables for three states (see below) to see if anything can be gained from the variations. The figures for Kentucky are higher than for California and New York? Why?
Here are factors I think would be considered:
·         Data about online and mail order sales by individuals for which sales tax is not charged.
·         Whether there are neighboring states without sales tax or a much lower sales tax such that people may be inclined to make purchases there.
·         Whether large web and mail order vendors, such as and collect sales tax from residents.
·         Whether there is an affiliate nexus law.
New York
State sales tax rate:
Use tax look up table base:
State AGI
State AGI
Federal AGI
Look up table amounts for these AGI levels:
AGI x 0.08%
AGI x 0.035%
Over $200,000
AGI x 0.049%(or $250 if less)
Add use tax on items costing $1,000 or more.
NCSL estimated uncollected use tax on all remote sales for 2012 (business and individual)
$4.2 billion
$224 million
$1.8 billion
Population per US Census Bureau (2014)
38.8 million
4.4 million
19.7 million
Does collect sales tax in the state?

So, why the variations in look-up table amounts among these three states?  Do state tax agencies share their formulas among themselves? Why not make the assumptions and formula public?

What do you think? Do you use one (if available)?  Do you think they are good estimates?


Valerie said...

I do use when, and I think this has good estimates for a tax table. They're always so helpful to have!

Unknown said...

These tax tables could come in use as I configure estimates for my taxes. Once I am ready to file, I will certainly look into finding an accountant to assist me. It's helpful to be prepared so I have an idea to know what to expect though.