Q: I am a US resident. Will I have to pay sales tax when I shop online?
A: By law, online merchants have to charge sales tax if they have a physical presence (an office, a store, their headquarters, etc.) in the state where the merchandise is being shipped to. In other words, if your online store has a physical presence in California and your shipping address is in California, then the merchant has to charge you sales tax on top of the price listed online. However, if your shipping address was in Indiana and your store did not have a physical presence in that state, you would not have to pay sales tax.
Q: How much is sales tax and is it the same in every state?
A: Sales tax is not the same in every state and different states have different rules as to when they charge sales tax, which goods are subject to sales tax and whether there is a value threshold over which sales tax applies. Different states also charge different percentages of sales tax. Only five states out of the 50 (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon) do not charge sales tax at this time. However tax legislation is always subject to change, so this could be different in the future.
Q: Is there a way I can avoid paying sales tax?
A: If you are a US resident and the online store you are buying from has a presence in your state, then they are obliged to charge sales tax. The only way you could avoid paying sales tax is to shop online only from stores that do not have any presence in your state. However, this can sometimes be tricky, especially with bigger stores with national presence.
Q: Is there a way I can save on US shipping costs?
A: Yes, quite a few! First of all, a lot of online stores offer free US shipping, either on any order no matter of what value, or on orders over a certain (usually reasonable) value. At couponsophy we have compiled an extensive list of all our partner online stores that offer free shipping, which you can browse here. Even if your chosen store does not offer free shipping at this time, keep checking back, as many stores periodically feature free shipping promotions for a limited time.
Lots of stores also offer low flat shipping rates, which can be another excellent way of saving money off shipping.
Finally, check to see if your store offers multiple shipping options. If you are not in a rush to receive your goods and can wait a few more days, choosing the least expensive shipping option (most often via USPS) can be a very good way to save money.