Sales taxes in the United States are taxes placed on the sale or lease of goods and services in the United States. While no national general sales tax exists, the federal government levies several national selective sales taxes on the sale or lease of particular goods and services. Furthermore, forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Guam impose general sales taxes that apply to the sale or lease of most goods and some services, and states also may levy selective sales taxes on the sale or lease of particular goods or services. States may also delegate to local governments the authority to impose additional general or selective sales taxes.
Sales tax is calculated by multiplying the purchase price by the applicable tax rate. Tax rates vary widely by jurisdiction and range from less than 1% to over 10%. Sales tax is collected by the seller at the time of sale. Use tax is self assessed by a buyer who has not paid sales tax on a taxable purchase. Unlike the value added tax, a sales tax is imposed only once, at the retail level. However, in cases where items are sold at retail more than once, such as used cars, the sales tax can be charged on the same item indefinitely.
The definition of retail sales and what goods and services are taxable vary among the states. Nearly all jurisdictions provide numerous categories of goods and services that are exempt from sales tax, or taxed at reduced rates. The purchase of goods for further manufacture or for resale is uniformly exempt from sales tax. Most jurisdictions exempt food sold in grocery stores, prescription medications, and many agricultural supplies.
Sales taxes, including those imposed by local governments, are generally administered at the state level. States imposing sales tax either impose the tax on retail sellers or impose it on retail buyers and require sellers to collectit. In either case, the seller files returns and remit the tax to the state. In states where the tax is on the seller, it is customary for the seller to demand reimbursement from the buyer. Procedural rules vary widely. Sellers generally must collect tax from in-state purchasers unless the purchaser provides an exemption certificate. Most states allow or require electronic remittance.
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