Navigating the Tax Implications of Opening or Expanding Your Retail Business

Jun 4, 2024

Opening or expanding a retail business can be an exciting endeavor filled with opportunities for growth and success. However, amidst the hustle of launching new products, attracting customers, and managing operations, it’s critical that operators do not to overlook the myriad of tax implications that come with running a retail business. From income tax to sales tax and everything in between, understanding and navigating these tax considerations can make a substantial difference in the financial health and sustainability of your retail venture. As such, our DHW Retail Team offers up the following guidance for operators to consider.

Income Tax Considerations

One of the primary tax implications of opening or expanding a retail business is income tax. The profits generated by your retail operations will be subject to taxation at the federal, state, and possibly local levels. The structure of your business, whether it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC, will determine how your business income is taxed, where it gets reported, and who pays. In addition, self-employment taxes could be applicable under certain structures. In short, each structure has its own set of tax rules and rates, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your business goals and financial situation when organizing your entity.

Sales Tax Obligations

Another critical consideration for retail businesses is sales tax. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be required to collect and remit sales tax on goods and services sold to customers. You’ll need to register with the appropriate tax authorities and remit the collected sales tax at regular intervals. This obligation applies not only to brick-and-mortar sales but also to online transactions if you have an e-commerce component to your business. If you sell products online, you’ll need to navigate the complex landscape of online sales tax. Recent Supreme Court decisions have allowed states to require online retailers to collect sales tax even if they don’t have a physical presence in the state. Failure to comply with sales tax laws can result in hefty penalties and interest, so it’s crucial to understand your sales tax obligations and ensure proper collection and remittance.

Property Tax Responsibilities

If you own the property where your retail business is located, you’ll also be subject to property tax on that real estate. Property tax is based on the assessed value of the property and is typically levied by local governments. In addition to real estate tax, operators will also be subject to personal property tax on the various fixtures, equipment, and accessories within it. Items such as display racking, computers, furniture, and other fixtures will need to be rendered annually to the county assessor so the requisite tax can be levied. Therefore, it’s essential to factor property tax expenses into your budgeting and financial planning to avoid any surprises each year.

Employment Taxes and Payroll Obligations

If your retail business has employees, you’ll need to withhold federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes, from their wages. Additionally, you’ll be responsible for paying the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Like sales taxes, you’ll need to register with the appropriate tax authorities at the federal, state, and local levels and remit the collected payroll tax at regular intervals. Managing payroll can be a complex process, especially if you have multiple locations in different states or jurisdictions. Therefore, ensuring compliance with payroll tax obligations is crucial to avoid costly penalties and fines from tax authorities.

Inventory Taxes

Some states impose taxes on business inventory, which can add another layer of complexity for retail businesses. You may be required to pay taxes on the value of your inventory at the beginning or end of the tax year. Currently, there are only 11 states that impose taxes on inventory. Virginia is one of these states therefore, North Carolina retailers operating in this state should ensure proper inventory management and valuation measures are in place to accurately assess your inventory tax liability and minimize tax exposure.

Use Tax 

If you purchase goods from out-of-state vendors and don’t pay sales tax at the time of purchase, you may be required to pay a use tax on those goods in your state. In most cases, we see this occur when an operator purchases equipment or store supplies from an out-of-state vendor that is not required to collect North Carolina sales tax. In these cases, operators must “self-assess” the requisite use tax on any taxable sales and render similar to how sales taxes are reported. In our experience, use tax is a little known (or understood) tax that many operators miss therefore, understanding and complying with use tax laws is essential to avoid potential tax liabilities and penalties.

Tax Credits and Deductions

On the bright side, there are tax credits available to retail businesses that can help offset their tax liability and reduce their overall tax burden. Investing in energy-efficient upgrades for your retail space, such as LED lighting, HVAC systems, or solar panels, may qualify you for various tax credits or deductions at the federal, state, or local level. These incentives can serve a dual purpose by helping offset the cost of improvements and reduce your tax liability. Additionally, there may be employment credits available (e.g., the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit) in connection with hiring employees from designated target groups.

Expansion Credits and Incentives

Some jurisdictions offer tax credits or incentives to businesses that expand within their borders. These incentives can include tax breaks, grants, or other financial benefits designed to encourage growth and investment. Retail businesses should explore potential expansion credits and incentives available in their area and take advantage of these opportunities to support their growth initiatives.

International Tax Implications

For retail businesses looking to expand internationally, there are additional tax considerations to navigate. Operating in different countries means dealing with a myriad of tax laws and regulations, including income taxes, value-added taxes (VAT), customs duties, and other local taxes. Understanding the tax implications of international expansion is essential for retail businesses to avoid compliance issues and minimize tax exposure in foreign markets.


Opening or expanding a retail business comes with a host of tax implications that require careful consideration and planning. From income tax to sales tax, property tax, and beyond, understanding and effectively managing these tax considerations is crucial for the financial success and sustainability of your retail venture. To learn more about the aforementioned taxes and how they may impact your retail organization, please contact Tim Reynolds at 828.232.2070 or at