Q. I am just starting to look into craft shows in South Texas and had a few questions. I have an internet Coffee and Candle business that just doesn’t seem to have taken off (www.ashtonsgourmetcoffee.com). I thought a craft show was a good way to get seen. Looking at some of the applications they ask for license, permits, and tax numbers. Am I required to get all these before I can go to a craft show? I do not charge taxes now. Can you help me?
A. You don’t want to mess with the tax man! Generally, with the exception of sales to tax exempt non-profits and telephone and Internet sales shipped to states where the seller doesn’t have a physical presence, sellers are required to collect taxes on all retail sales. Before you can collect and report sales tax, your business must be registered with its home state. To begin the process, contact the office of the Secretary of State in your home state and request information on filing for a tax number. In many states this can be done online. Your business will be put into the state’s database and you will be required to file a return, usually quarterly, and pay the taxes due on the sales you report. Further, you will be required to register in the same way in any other states where you have a physical presence even for the brief run of a craft show. This number will also allow you to purchase goods you intend to resell without paying tax.
I’m not clear what licenses and permits you would need. When I was an exhibiting craftsman I was never required to have them. However, I wasn’t selling food products and you are—this may be the reason these came up. I do know that here in Massachusetts, my home state, there are very strict regulations about handling and selling food products. I suggest you contact the promoters of the various shows you are considering and ask them exactly what permits and licenses you will need and how to apply for them. Often the show promoters themselves provide the forms necessary to apply for a tax number in their state. In the meantime, do apply for a tax number; again, you really don’t want to mess with the tax man.