Understanding State Nexus for Income Tax Purposes: A Comprehensive Guide

Navigating the Complexities of State Nexus Rules to Ensure Tax Compliance

What is State Nexus?

State nexus refers to the connection or link a business has with a state that subjects it to that state’s tax laws. Nexus determines whether a business must collect and remit sales tax or pay income tax in a particular state. For income tax purposes, nexus generally arises from a significant presence or economic activity within a state. The rules governing state nexus can be complex and vary significantly from state to state.

General Principles of Nexus

Nexus is established through various activities, such as:

  1. Physical Presence: Having an office, store, warehouse, or employees in the state.
  2. Economic Presence: Significant sales or revenue generated from customers in the state, even without physical presence.
  3. Affiliate Nexus: Relationships with in-state entities that assist in selling products or services.

The Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018) significantly impacted nexus rules by allowing states to impose sales tax obligations based on economic presence alone, rather than requiring physical presence. This principle also influences state income tax nexus rules.

Summary of State Nexus Rules for Income Tax

State nexus rules for income tax purposes can be categorized based on physical presence, economic presence, or a combination of both. Below is a summary of how various states determine nexus for income tax purposes.

Physical Presence States

Some states still primarily rely on physical presence to establish income tax nexus. This includes having employees, property, or offices in the state.

  • Alabama: Physical presence, including property or employees.
  • Georgia: Property or payroll in the state.
  • Indiana: Physical presence, property, or payroll.

Economic Presence States

Many states have adopted economic nexus standards, where substantial economic activity within the state creates nexus, even without physical presence.

  • California: Economic nexus is established if sales exceed $500,000.
  • Colorado: Economic nexus applies if gross sales exceed $500,000.
  • Michigan: Economic nexus is established if sales exceed $350,000.
  • New York: Economic nexus is established if sales exceed $1 million.

Factor Presence States

Some states use a factor presence standard, which considers the proportion of property, payroll, and sales within the state.

  • California: Nexus if sales, property, or payroll exceeds a certain threshold ($500,000 for sales).
  • Ohio: Bright-line presence based on property, payroll, or sales exceeding $500,000.

Specific State Nexus Rules

Each state has its specific rules and thresholds for establishing nexus. Here’s a closer look at some notable states:

  • Texas: Nexus is established through physical presence, economic activity, or using the state’s market for digital products or services.
  • Florida: Relies on physical presence but is moving towards economic nexus standards.
  • Illinois: Physical presence and economic nexus, with a threshold of $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions.

Navigating State Nexus: Tips for Businesses

  1. Conduct a Nexus Study: Assess where your business activities create nexus. This involves reviewing sales, property, and payroll in different states.
  2. Monitor Thresholds: Economic nexus thresholds can vary and change. Regularly review the thresholds in states where you conduct business.
  3. Comply with Reporting Requirements: Once nexus is established, ensure compliance with state filing and reporting requirements to avoid penalties.
  4. Use Professional Advice: State tax laws are complex and subject to change. Consult with tax professionals to ensure compliance and optimize your tax strategy.


Understanding and managing state nexus for income tax purposes is crucial for businesses operating in multiple states. The rules vary by state, with some relying on physical presence, others on economic presence, and many using a combination of both. By staying informed about the nexus standards in each state and seeking professional guidance, businesses can ensure compliance, optimize their tax positions, and avoid unexpected liabilities.

Summary by States

Here’s a brief overview of nexus rules for selected states:

StateNexus StandardThresholds
AlabamaPhysical presenceProperty or employees
CaliforniaEconomic presence, factor presence$500,000 in sales
ColoradoEconomic presence$500,000 in gross sales
FloridaPhysical presenceProperty or employees
GeorgiaPhysical presenceProperty or payroll
IllinoisPhysical and economic presence$100,000 in sales or 200 transactions
IndianaPhysical presenceProperty or payroll
MichiganEconomic presence$350,000 in sales
New YorkEconomic presence$1 million in sales
OhioFactor presence$500,000 in sales, property, or payroll
TexasPhysical and economic presenceSales, digital products, or services

By understanding these principles and keeping abreast of changes, businesses can effectively manage their state tax obligations and avoid costly penalties.