Feb 25 2008

Are you paying too much sales tax?

That’s the headline from this story in Sunday’s Post-Gazette.

In Pennsylvania, the sales tax is 6 percent, but it’s 7 percent in a few counties (mine included).

Many items are not taxed, including most clothing, foods, healthcare items, and other necessities including toilet paper.

However, an informal study conducted by the newspaper found that some stores were charging sales tax on non-taxable items.

Just as it’s a good idea to check your receipt before leaving the store to make sure you weren’t overcharged, it’s a good idea to make sure you weren’t overtaxed. Your receipt might have a special designation next to each item that was taxed, such as a T or a * or a + or something. Sure, it might amount to "just" a few cents, but over time, it can add up.

Why donate your hard-earned money to the government?

Get your money back. Go to the customer service desk, speak to a manager, and let him or her know you were inappropriately taxed. You should be given a refund, and they should adjust the item in their system so that other people aren’t taxed on it.

Here’s a PDF of items that are taxable or non taxable within the commonwealth. It’s a long list. Start on page 18.

Items that caught my attention:

  • Single-issue magazines are taxed; magazine subscriptions aren’t (yet another reason to save money by subscribing!)
  • Girdles are nontaxable. Lol. I guess those are necessary for some.
  • Rainwear is nontaxable; umbrellas are taxed.
  • Sunburn "preventives" are taxed; sunburn treatment isn’t. Personally, I’d rather prevent sunburn. It seems like a health necessity.
  • Body piercings and tattoos are not taxed. I don’t understand the logic there.
  • Health club membership fees are not taxed.

What are the sales tax rules in your state? Do you have to have a 50-page guide to figure it out, or is it more broad? Do you check your receipts to make sure you weren’t overtaxed? I haven’t in the past, but you can bet I will from now on.



8 Responses to “Are you paying too much sales tax?”

  1. Sales tax is one of the reasons I no longer super coupon.

    You are charged sales tax here for the total amount BEFORE coupons. At least, that’s what I could figure when I would have free items only and $2.30 in tax!

  2. Oh, and another good thing about thrift shopping where I live–secondhand clothing is not taxed when you buy from a nonprofit store!

  3. They make it easy here, they just tax just about everything! Well, they tax everything except “grocery” items — this category includes unprepared foods but not included are alcohol, carbonated beverages, bottled water, toiletries, cleaners, etc. Services are not taxed (so for example we don’t tax tatoos because they are a service; piercings are not taxed but purchasing the ring is taxed). But the tax rate varies by county and even city — in my hometown it’s 7.25% but where I work it’s 7.75%, further toward the coast it’s 8%, etc.

  4. Thanks for adding more good reasons to be pro-thrift store!

    Sales tax is so tricky. It took me a few months to realize just how many things I buy are non-taxable here in Pa.

    Before I move to another state, I’m going to make sure we’re well-stocked on socks and underwear and other nontaxable items. The cost of living here is pretty low, so that no sales tax thing is pretty nice.

  5. Wow! I had no idea about some of these. I’ll have to check the full rules for my state.

  6. Unfortunately I live in a tax crazy state. WV taxes food. They just recently lowered it to 4% as opposed to 6%, but it was 6% for a long long long time. Still you provided something to think about! I don’t get the tatoo thing either!

  7. Move to Oregon! No sales tax here!

    Though the income tax is really high….

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. Cheerful Frugality Splits Hairs | Frugal Hacks

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.


Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

Keep in Touch!
Like me on Facebook Follow Me on Twitter RSS Feed

Subscribe to my email updates:

Web Statistics