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The Ultimate Guide To Iowa Sales Tax

Welcome to our handy guide on Iowa sales tax. We'll walk you through everything you need to know, from the specific sales tax rates in different counties and cities across Iowa to answering some of the most common questions. Plus, we'll guide you on how to efficiently collect and file your sales tax in Iowa.

Sales Tax Rate


Local Rate?



Iowa Department of Revenue

Sales Threshold


Tax Line

(515) 281-3114

Transactions Threshold


What is Nexus?

You'll need to collect sales tax in Iowa if you have nexus there. There are two main ways that sellers can be tied to a state when it comes to nexus: physical, or economic.

Physical nexus means having enough tangible presence, or activity in a state to merit paying sales tax in that state.

Economic nexus means passing a states' economic threshold, for total revenue, or the number of transactions in that state.

Calculating Nexus in Iowa

Understanding Sales Tax Nexus in Iowa

Sales tax nexus is like an invisible thread that connects your business to a state. In Iowa, it means you have certain obligations to collect and remit sales tax on transactions within the state.

Physical Nexus: Setting Foot in Iowa

Physical nexus is all about having a real, tangible presence in Iowa. Think of it like planting your business flag in the state. If you own or rent a space like an office or a warehouse, employ people, or offer services like installation or repairs in Iowa, then congratulations! You've got a physical nexus.

Economic Nexus: Counting Your Sales and Transactions

Economic nexus is a bit like hitting a sales milestone. As of January 1, 2019, if your business racks up $100,000 in sales or engages in 200 separate transactions with Iowa customers in a year, you've crossed the economic nexus threshold. This means it's time to collect and remit sales tax in Iowa.

Affiliate Nexus: Family Ties in Iowa

Affiliate nexus is like having a helpful cousin in Iowa. If you have a subsidiary, a sales rep, or a partner company in Iowa helping you make sales, you're considered to have affiliate nexus. It's as if your business family in Iowa is extending a hand to help you navigate the sales tax landscape.

Click-Through Nexus: Digital Referrals

Click-through nexus is the modern twist in our tale. If your business gets over $10,000 in annual sales through online referrals from Iowa websites, you've got click-through nexus.

Marketplace Nexus: The Online Marketplaces

Finally, marketplace nexus is about selling on the big online stages like Amazon or eBay. If these platforms are your sales arenas and they have a presence in Iowa, they often handle the sales tax for you.
Did you know logo

If you’re a pumpkin farmer, you’re in luck. Pumpkins in Iowa sold for food or feed are tax-free.

Sales Tax Registration in Iowa

Step-by-Step Online Registration via GovConnectIowa:

  • Visit GovConnectIowa's website.
  • Click on "Businesses," then find "Business Tax Registration."
  • Under "Sales Tax Permit," start your registration.
  • Keep these details handy: Business name and address, FEIN, NAICS code, and information about managing owners, partners, or officers (like names, addresses, and SSNs).
  • Enter your contact details.
  • Once you’ve filled in all the necessary info, hit "Submit."
  • You’ll get a confirmation email with your shiny new permit number, and voila! You're all set to start collecting sales tax.

Paper Application:

If you're a fan of the traditional pen-and-paper method, here's what you need to do:
  • Head over to the Iowa Department of Revenue website and download Form 78-005.
  • Fill it out and mail it to:
    Iowa Department of Revenue
    Business Tax Registration
    PO Box 9181
    Des Moines, IA 50306-9181
  • Once it’s processed, you’ll receive a confirmation letter with your permit number. Then you're ready to roll with sales tax collection.

Cost of Registration? Zero, Zilch, Nada!

That's right! Registering for an Iowa sales tax license is absolutely free.

Got Your EIN Ready?

Before you register, make sure you have your Federal Tax ID Number or EIN. This number is crucial for the Iowa Department of Revenue to identify your business. If you don't have an EIN yet, swing by the IRS website to get one.

Other Iowa Agencies to Check Out

Depending on your business type, you might need to introduce yourself to a few more agencies in Iowa: Iowa Secretary of State: For corporations, LLCs, or partnerships, make sure to register here. Iowa Workforce Development: Got a team? Register here for unemployment insurance and workers' comp. Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division: If you’re in the business of spirits, wines, or beers, you’ll need to stop by here for the necessary permits.

Guide to collecting sales tax in Iowa

Understanding Iowa's Sales Tax Structure

Iowa operates under a destination-based sales tax system. This means that the tax rate you apply is based on your customer's location within Iowa, not where your business is. To ensure you're charging the correct rate, including any local taxes, the Iowa Department of Revenue offers a handy tax rate lookup tool.

What Sales Are Taxable in Iowa

In Iowa, you're generally going to collect sales tax on:
  • Tangible Personal Property: Items like electronics, furniture, and clothing.
  • Certain Services: This includes landscaping, janitorial, and home improvement services.
  • Entertainment: Think admission fees to movies, concerts, or sporting events.
  • Utilities: Charges for electricity, gas, and water services.
  • Telecommunications: Services like phone and internet access.

Is SaaS Taxable in Iowa

Yep! Software as a Service (SaaS), along with other digital products like e-books and online movies, are taxable in Iowa. This was updated in 2018, so it's a fairly recent change to keep in mind.

Navigating Sales Tax Exemptions

Iowa offers several exemptions from sales tax, including:
  • Prescription Medications and Medical Devices.
  • Groceries and Unprepared Food Items.
  • Agricultural and Manufacturing Equipment.
  • Educational Materials.
  • Newspapers and Periodicals.
  • Sales to Nonprofit Organizations and Government Agencies.
  • Agricultural Production Items.

Who's Exempt from Iowa Sales Tax

Eligibility for sales tax exemptions in Iowa extends to:
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Churches, charities, etc.
  • Government Agencies.
  • Schools and Educational Institutions.
  • Resale Businesses with a Valid Sales Tax Permit.
  • Contractors for Certain Projects.

Handling Tax-Exempt Customers

If a customer claims an exemption:
  • Obtain a completed exemption certificate from them.
  • Keep this certificate on file - it's important for audits.
  • Regularly update and review your records for accuracy.

Lost an Exemption Certificate?

No worries! Just get in touch with the customer for a replacement. Keeping a systematic record (like a shared Dropbox folder) helps in organizing these documents and avoiding future losses.
Did you know logo

Textbooks are tax-free if purchased by students. Iowa invests in brains tax-free.

Steps for Filing a Iowa Sales Tax Return

Understanding Your Filing Frequency

  • Monthly Filers: If your annual sales tax liability is over $6,000, you'll be filing your returns each month.
  • Quarterly Filers: Those with a liability between $120 and $6,000 per year fit into the quarterly filing category.
  • Annual Filers: If you collect less than $120 in sales tax per year, you'll file annually.

Due Dates to Remember

  • For monthly filers, your returns are due on the last day of the month following the reporting period. For example, January's sales tax should be filed by February 28th.
  • Quarterly returns follow a similar pattern, with the due date being the last day of the month after the quarter ends. So, for the first quarter (January - March), your filing is due by April 30th.
  • If you're an annual filer, mark January 31st on your calendar as your deadline.

When Weekends and Holidays Toss a Curveball

If your filing date falls on a weekend or public holiday, Iowa’s got your back! Your deadline extends to the next business day, giving you a little breathing room.

How to File Your Iowa Sales Tax Return

Embrace the digital age and file electronically through Iowa’s eFile & Pay system. It's convenient and secure, needing just your tax permit number, a password, and your sales data.

Penalties to Avoid

  • Late Filing: Miss the deadline? There’s a 10% penalty of the tax due or $50, whichever is more.
  • Failure to File: Forget to file entirely? The state might estimate your tax and slap on a 75% penalty of that amount.

Interest Charges

Late payments attract interest, calculated daily at the federal short-term rate plus 4%.

Discounts for Timely Filers

Iowa rewards prompt filers! You can enjoy a 0.5% discount on the tax due, capped at $1,500 annually, for filing and paying on time.

Iowa’s Sales Tax Holiday

Get ready for some tax-free shopping! Typically on the first Friday and Saturday in August, certain clothing and footwear under $100 are exempt from sales tax. It’s a great time for back-to-school shopping and supporting local businesses.

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Top 5 Tips for Filing Sales Tax in Iowa

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