Home Sales Tax What Transactions are Subjected to Sales Tax?

What Transactions are Subjected to Sales Tax?

What Transactions are Subjected to Sales Tax?

What Transactions are Subjected to Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a type of tax that consumers pay whenever they purchase goods or services. It is also known as value-added tax (VAT) or goods and services tax (GST) in some countries. The rate of sales tax varies from state to state and is determined by the government. In this article, we will discuss the transactions that are subjected to sales tax and the different types of sales taxes in the United States.

What is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a state tax that is collected on the purchase of goods and services. It is usually a percentage of the purchase price, and the rate varies from state to state. In some states, cities and counties also impose their own sales taxes on top of the state tax.

Businesses collect sales tax from customers and remit it to the state government. The government then uses this revenue to fund public services and infrastructure. The amount of sales tax collected is based on the total amount of the purchase price, including any fees or charges.

What Transactions are Subjected to Sales Tax?

Sales tax is typically charged on most tangible goods and some services. Different states have different rules and exemptions, but generally, the following types of transactions are subjected to sales tax:

1. Retail Sales

When a consumer purchases a product from a retailer, they are usually charged sales tax. This includes goods such as clothing, appliances, electronics, and furniture.

2. Services

Some states also tax services such as car repairs, lawn care, and cleaning services. However, not all states tax services.

3. Lodging

Many states impose an additional tax on hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments. This is often referred to as a lodging tax or occupancy tax.

4. Rental of Personal Property

Many states also tax the rental of personal property, such as equipment, vehicles, and tools.

5. Digital Products

In recent years, more states have begun taxing digital products such as movies, music, and e-books. This is due to the rise in online sales and subscription-based services.

6. Admissions and Amusements

States also tax admissions to events such as concerts, sporting events, and movies. They may also tax other types of amusements such as arcade games, bowling alleys, and amusement parks.

7. Prepared Food

Many states tax prepared food, such as meals at restaurants or fast food establishments. However, some states have exemptions for food that is consumed off-premises or is not considered a meal.

8. Alcohol and Tobacco Products

Most states tax alcohol and tobacco products heavily, either through an excise tax or a sales tax.

Different Types of Sales Taxes in the United States

There are different types of sales taxes that are imposed by states and local governments in the United States. These include:

1. State Sales Tax

All states except for Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon impose a state sales tax. The rate varies from state to state and can range from 2.9% to 7.25%.

2. Local Sales Tax

Many cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions also impose their own sales taxes on top of the state tax. These taxes can vary significantly and can increase the overall tax rate in some areas.

3. Use Tax

In some cases, consumers may be required to pay a use tax instead of a sales tax. This occurs when a consumer purchases goods from an out-of-state vendor who is not required to collect sales tax. The use tax is essentially the same as a sales tax and is intended to ensure that all purchases are taxed equally, regardless of where they were made.

4. Excise Tax

Some products, such as gasoline and cigarettes, are subject to an excise tax. This tax is usually included in the price of the product and is collected by the retailer or distributor.


Sales tax is an important revenue source for state and local governments. The transactions that are subjected to sales tax vary from state to state, but generally include tangible goods and some services. Different types of sales taxes apply in different jurisdictions, including state, local, use, and excise taxes. It is important for consumers and businesses to understand and comply with sales tax regulations to avoid penalties and maintain compliance.

There are several types of transitions that are subjected to the general sales tax. However, each tax jurisdiction makes specific and unique determinations as to the manner in which sales taxes are imposed. The regular sales tax is applied to purchases, as a percentage of the cost of an item. Merchandise purchases online may not be subjected to a sales tax at the point of purchase, if the company does not have a physical presence in the state where the item is being shipped.

However, the consumer is still required to pay the tax directly to their state. That tax burden however, only applies if the type of merchandise is normally taxed in that state. Each state taxes differing merchandise and imposes taxes at a different percentage of the sale price. In addition to the state sales tax, there are local sales taxes imposed in certain circumstances. Each local state tax must adhere to state and Federal tax restrictions.

Regular Sales:

Sales taxes apply to the purchase of many goods and services. However, each tax jurisdiction makes specific and unique determinations at to tax rates and merchandise that is subject to a sales tax. For example, some states do not impose a tax on provided services, while others do.

The regular sales tax sometimes applies to merchandise such as electronics, clothing and food. However, each tax jurisdiction can decide to exempt certain purchases from the tax. For example, some states do not tax food considered necessary, such as bread and milk. Yet, those states may tax food items considered a luxury, such as candy and prepared foods. Although each state makes those determinations, local governments may also add a separate sales tax to merchandise and services.

Internet Sales:

Consumers that make purchases online, may or may not be subject to an immediate sales tax on their purchase. Some companies that conduct business online, charge a state sales tax, including on shipping and handling,while others do not. The factors that determine if a  company charges a sales tax will depend on where the company is located, and whether it has locations in other states. For example, a department store, which has stores and warehouses in many states, would likely charge a sales tax on purchases delivered to every state.

Whereas a small business, which perhaps has only one location, would only charge a sales tax to shipments within the state where they are located. In purchases where there is no immediate sale tax, the consumer is expected to make a tax payment directly to their state, and local government, if the taxes would normally apply to the purchase. For example, if a consumer purchases clothes online, and their state does not impose a sales tax, they are not required to pay a sales tax on those items purchased online. However, if their state does impose a sales tax on clothing, they are required to remit payment to their state. While out of state purchases incur a use tax, that tax is still considered a sales tax.

State Variations:

Each state has variations in the way that they impose sales taxes. In most cases, each state will impose a sales tax directly to the consumer at the pint of purchase. In other words, when a consumer purchases items in which the state imposes a sales tax, the consumer will pay that sales tax when the purchase is made.

Sales taxes are currently imposed as a percentage of the sales price of merchandise, and services in some jurisdictions. Yet, some states do not impose a sales tax which is paid directly by the consumer. Some states, such as Hawaii, impose a sales tax which is paid by businesses, as a percentage of income from sales in a tax year. That business likely passes that tax on to the consumer through adding to the base price of an item. In both direct sales taxes, and other types of taxes, the price of that tax generally gets passed onto the consumer.