Sales tax refunds in the United States - Library Sales tax refunds in the United States

By Jonathan Weber,
If you are a foreign national visiting the United States as a tourist or a foreign company looking to purchase goods or supplies in the United States, you may be able to get a full refund of the sales tax you pay on qualifying purchases.
Note that unlike countries with a VAT that offer VAT refunds, sales taxes in the United States are handled by state governments and as a result there is no central bureau that can handle tax refunds across multiple states.
In order to gain a sales tax refund on purchases made, you’ll have to work directly with the Department of Revenue in each state you purchase from. Please note that some states will limit refunds or exemptions to purchases of more then $500 USD.

No Sales Tax Collected, No Refunds Necessary

These states collect no sales tax on any purchases, so no sales tax refund is necessary:

AK / DE / OR / NH / MT

Obtaining Sales Tax Exemption Forms OR Sales Tax Refunds

All states that DO collect sales taxes should be able to offer either an exemption certificate or information on getting your sales tax refunded for one of two reasons:

  • You are purchasing goods for export from the United States
  • You are purchasing goods for resale or as raw materials (most state sales taxes do not apply to sales to entities who are not the final consumer)
If you are making significant purchases in any state, you will need to contact their Department of Revenue’s sales tax division and state your intended purchases and your status as a resale business or exporter. Some states, including Louisiana, have sales tax refund offices located in transport hubs and airports where travelers can get sales tax refunds directly.

States without dedicated refund offices will be able to provide you with either a sales tax exemption form to present to merchants instead of paying sales tax, or information on getting your sales tax refunded directly after the purchase is made. In some states, sales tax must be collected on all purchases made in-state but refunds may be issued once the buyer can provide “acceptable proof” of exporting the goods purchased.
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