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Navigating sales tax and tax refunds in the USA

Navigating taxes can be tricky in the USA, especially if you are used to having the tax included in a listed price. Sales taxes are not included in the price of goods or services in the U.S. This might seem strange to visitors, but that’s because sales tax rates across the country vary greatly. Here is a quick guide to taxes in the USA, but don’t be afraid to ask about specific charges when you receive a bill.

Sales Tax

The amount of sales tax on goods and services varies from state to state. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon do not charge sales tax, which make them popular states for shopping. Some states, including New Jersey, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, don’t levy sales tax on clothing. Some states have a price limit on exempt clothing and often exclude accessories, sporting goods and ornamental clothing. State sales tax ranges from nearly 3 to 7.5 percent nationally. However, counties and cities can levy additional sales taxes. So if you are making a large purchase, it pays to ask about the sales tax in advance. (It will also be printed on your sales receipt.) 

When you are securing a service you might also be charged a tax. Services like hotel rooms and rental cars are also typically taxed at higher rates that vary from state to state and from city to city.

To see the sales tax rate of a particular state, see tax rates. Please note the tax rates table does not include city or county sales taxes. 

Tax Refunds

The U.S. Government does not refund sales tax to international visitors. Sales tax charged in the U.S. is paid to individual states, not the federal government. If you are making a major purchase, such as a car, and you intend to export the item, you will want to contact the taxation authority in the state where you will be making the purchase. The state tax authority will be able to inform you of its criteria for refunding any sales tax paid. Some states like Louisiana and Texas offer tax-free shopping for international visitors.