Sales taxes in the United States are taxes placed on the sale or lease of goods and services in the United States. In the United States, sales tax is governed at the state level and no national general sales tax exists. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, 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.
Since January 2017, 5 states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) do not levy a statewide sales tax, while California has the highest state sales tax with a base rate of 7.25%. (the territory of Puerto Rico has a higher 10.5% value added tax since April 2016). In some states such as California, counties and cities impose additional sales taxes, and total sales taxes can be over 11%.
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 at the retail level. 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, such as with Transaction Privilege Tax in Arizona, or impose it on retail buyers and require sellers to collect it. In either case, the seller files returns and remits 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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