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Use Tax


Use tax is a type of tax imposed on goods purchased in one state but used in another, usually when the purchased items are not subjected to sales tax in the state they were bought. It is typically applied to purchases made online, over the phone, or through mail order. The use tax rate usually equals the resident state’s sales tax rate.


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Key Takeaways

  1. Use tax is a type of tax applied on goods and services purchased in one state for use in another. This tax comes into effect when the sales tax of the original state is not charged or is lower than the tax rate of the state where the goods or services are used.
  2. Use tax aims at maintaining a fair marketplace, as it aids in leveling the field for local businesses that must charge sales tax at the point of sale. In many circumstances, it prevents tax-free shopping from out-of-state or online vendors.
  3. While it is the consumers’ responsibility to voluntarily pay use taxes directly to the state, it often runs into compliance issues. Many purchasers are unaware of their responsibility, or they choose not to comply because the state lacks effective enforcement mechanisms.


Use Tax is a crucial concept in business and finance primarily because it maintains a fair market and helps to avoid tax evasion. It is a type of tax imposed on goods and services purchased from another state or country where sales tax has not been paid. This is especially pertinent in online retail and other forms of interstate or international commerce. The use tax ensures that local businesses are not disadvantaged by competition from other regions with lower sales taxes. It also ensures that the state or local government receives its due revenue, regardless of where its residents or businesses make their purchases. Hence, understanding ‘Use Tax’ is vital for businesses to avoid legal issues and for state revenue purposes.


Use tax is essentially a type of tax implemented by numerous U.S states primarily aimed at levying taxes on items purchased in a different state or country for use, storage or consumption in the purchaser’s home state where it might otherwise avoid sales tax. This tax is used as a means of ensuring fairness in tax liability among consumers, whether they choose to shop in state, out of state, or online. This helps to nullify any unfair advantage that out-of-state or online sellers could potentially have over in-state sellers, in terms of the sales tax burden.The primary proper use of the use tax comes into effect when substantial sales tax has not been paid on goods or services that will be used within the state where they were not originally purchased. For instance, should a consumer purchase an item online without paying any sales tax but intend to use it in their home state that does impose a sales tax, they would be responsible for paying a use tax equivalent to their home state’s sales tax. This thereby aids in countering tax evasion through out-of-state purchases, and helps maintain the equilibrium in the economy.


1. Online Purchases: One of the most common and practical examples of a use tax is seen in online shopping. When a resident of New York buys a product online from a company based in Oregon, and if the company does not collect sales tax because it does not have a physical presence in New York, then the purchaser is responsible for paying the use tax in New York.2. Interstate Purchases: Another example could be when a business in California purchases machines or office equipment from another state which does not charge sales tax or charges less tax than California. The California business must pay a use tax to the state of California for using, storing, or consuming the equipment in California.3. Auto Purchases: A third example might be in the case of buying a vehicle out of your state. For instance, a resident of Illinois buys a car in Indiana to get a lower sales tax rate. In this case, they are responsible to pay a use tax difference to Illinois, because the vehicle will be titled and used in Illinois.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Use Tax?

A Use Tax is a type of tax charged by many states in the U.S. on the use of goods or services that were not charged sales tax. This usually applies to items purchased outside of the buyer’s state who would have paid a sales tax if purchased locally.

When does Use Tax apply?

Use Tax is generally applied when an item is purchased in a location with no sales tax or lower sales tax than the state where you reside. It’s also applied for online and out-of-state purchases where sales tax wasn’t charged.

How is Use Tax calculated?

The Use Tax rate is typically the same as the sales tax rate in your home state. You calculate it by multiplying the cost of the goods purchased (without sales tax) by your state’s use tax rate.

Do I need to pay Use Tax if I have already paid Sales Tax?

No. Use Tax is usually not applied if you’ve already paid sales tax in the state where goods were purchased. It is essentially a replacement for a sales tax for items purchased out of state.

How do I report Use Tax?

Use Tax is typically reported on your yearly State Income Tax Return. The required form and instructions can either found on your state’s Department of Revenue website or obtained from a tax professional.

What happens if I don’t pay Use Tax?

If you don’t pay Use Tax where it’s due, you could potentially face penalties or interest charges, just as you would for not paying sales tax.

Are businesses also required to pay Use Tax?

Yes, businesses are also typically required to pay Use Tax on taxable goods and services they use, consume, or store in their state of operation if sales tax has not been collected by the retailer.

Can a Use Tax be audited by state agencies?

Yes, just like other tax forms, the information you provide concerning Use Tax can be audited by state tax agencies. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain accurate records of out-of-state purchases for verification.

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