sales tax

Everything you don’t pay sales tax on in Pennsylvania, from books to utilities

In Pennsylvania, you don’t have to pay sales tax on dry ice. Or pony rides. Or pumpkins, if you’re planning on one for dinner. But that could change.

In Pennsylvania, you don’t have to pay sales tax on dry ice. Or pony rides. Or pumpkins, if you’re planning on one for dinner. Right now, there are hundreds of things exempt from the state’s sales tax.

That could change as legislators work out the now-four-months-late state budget. Legislative officials tell The Inquirer that limiting sales tax exemptions could be a part of a larger budget framework reworking Pennsylvania’s tax system. As you’ll see, what’s taxed and what’s not is complicated. For instance, pet cremation services are non-taxable, but pet caskets are taxed. Hair removal products are taxed, while hair restorative products aren’t. And pumpkins escape sales tax, but only if they’re used for food and not decoration.

Here’s the big list of everything in Pennsylvania that isn’t taxed:

Books and periodicals

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  • Mail order catalogues
  • Newspapers of general circulation qualified to carry a legal advertisement
  • Periodicals and magazines purchased by subscription
  • Textbooks, when sold by a school or an authorized book store

Business Needs

  • Direct mail advertising materials, including calendars, matchbooks, etc.
  • Dry ice, when sold for internal packaging with the sale of property to others
  • Wrapping supplies used in connection with the sale of products

Clothing

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Wikimedia Commons

*Clothing is generally not taxed, the following non-taxable items are ones that are frequently asked about, per the Department of Revenue.

  • Aprons
  • Belts and suspenders
  • Boots and shoes, designed for everyday wear
  • Dress shields
  • Garters and garter belts
  • Girdles
  • Gloves, cloth, leather, kid, for everyday wear
  • Headwear for everyday wear
  • Hosiery, pantyhose and peds
  • Hunting clothing, including camouflage and blaze orange
  • Leotards and tights
  • Leather wearing apparel
  • Lingerie
  • Maternity clothing for everyday wear
  • Neckwear, ties
  • Nightgowns  
  • Rainwear
  • Receiving blankets
  • Repairing of wearing apparel
  • Scarves, for headwear and neckwear
  • Scout uniforms and camp clothes
  • Stockings, including support-hose
  • Suspenders
  • T-shirts, imprinted
  • Underclothing
  • Work clothes, work uniforms
  • Yard goods (to make clothing)

Cosmetics

  • Deodorants, colostomy
  • Hair restorative medications (but hair removers are taxed)
  • Sunburn treatment, lotions or creams
  • Toothbrush, electric
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, tooth cleaners, dental floss and replacement brushes for electric toothbrush

Farming

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  • Artificial breeding equipment and supplies
  • Blacksmith/farrier services for commercial racehorses or horses used directly in farming
  • Cleaners and disinfectants used in cleaning milking equipment and to sterilize milk cans to prevent spoilage. (Property used for general farm cleaning and maintenance is taxable)
  • Equipment used to extract a product from productive animals or from the soil, such as harvesters, combines, binders, forage blowers, milking equipment, egg collecting equipment, corn shuckers, threshers, manure handling equipment
  • Equipment such as barn shovels, ensilage forks, wheelbarrows and feed carts
  • Feed and feed additives for productive animals
  • Fertilizer and chemical additives to be added to soil
  • Fuel for use in heating poultry brooder and greenhouses
  • Fumigation services upon agricultural commodities or containers used for agricultural commodities
  • Grooming materials, equipment and supplies when necessary for the health of productive animals
  • Harnesses used to control productive animals on the farm
  • Ice
  • Livestock equipment to dispense chemicals, medicines and feed additives
  • Livestock feeding equipment such as tubs, buckets, cans, etc., feed scoops and portable watering devices
  • Milk strainers and strainer discs and towels (dispensers to store and dispense the discs are taxable)
  • Pest control services for agricultural purposes
  • Property which becomes an ingredient or constituent of a farm product or is consumed by productive animals or plant growth, such as seeds, fertilizer, chemical additives, etc., and property such as seeders, planters, plows, harrows, cultivators, sprayers 5 17 and similar equipment used to till soil, plant, seed and care for productive plants.
  • Property used to handle, store or preserve farm products or productive animals on farm premises such as chemicals, grooming equipment (dehorners, debeakers, hoof trimmers, calf weaners, etc.)
  • Refrigeration or cooling equipment used to store and preserve farm products
  • Replacement parts such as tires, motors, belts, cutting edges, air filters, gears and similar replacement parts installed on exempt equipment. Motor fuels, lubricants, compressed air, distilled water, abrasives and similar supplies when used in operating exempt machinery are not taxable. Tools and equipment to apply parts and supplies are taxable.
  • Seeds
  • Silos
  • Water pump for farm use
  • Wrapping supplies and containers which are non-returnable to deliver self-produced farm products.

Flowers and seeds

  • Vegetable seeds, vegetable plants, and fruit trees purchased with food stamps

Food (prepared, like at a restaurant)

  • Alcohol, malt or brewed beverages and wines. Tax is paid at time of purchase from a Liquor Control Board store or licensed malt beverage distributor.
  • Candy and gum
  • Ice, water

Food (not prepared)

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Photographer: Constantin Barbu

*Food is generally not taxed, the following non-taxable items are ones that are frequently asked about, per the Department of Revenue.

  • Beer, six packs (unless sold by a distributor)
  • Bitters and grenadine
  • Candy apples
  • Candy and gum
  • Caramel corn
  • Coffee, cold bottled and flavored
  • Coffee beans, whole or ground
  • Deli items such as meats and cheeses, potato salad, macaroni salad, etc.
  • Food, fruit drinks, soft drinks and sandwiches purchased with food stamps
  • Food supplements in any form
  • Fruit drinks, noncarbonated or reconstituted, containing at least 25% natural fruit juice
  • Ice
  • Milk
  • Party trays, vegetable, cheese, seafood, meat
  • Pumpkins – for food (but must be taxed if for decoration)
  • Soy milk
  • Sweeteners, artificial
  • Tea, all forms including liquid and powdered tea
  • Water, including nonflavored mineral water

Craft supplies

  • Buckles for clothing
  • Buttons for clothing
  • Dress patterns
  • Fabrics for clothing
  • Dye, clothing fabric
  • Elastics for clothing
  • Embroidery of clothing
  • Hooks and eyes for clothing
  • Knitting yarn for clothing
  • Laces, ribbons, edgings, trimmings for clothing
  • Shoulder pads
  • Thread for clothing
  • Yard goods for clothing
  • Zippers for clothing

Paper goods

  • Disposable diapers and incontinence products
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons or similar items used for feminine hygiene
  • Toilet tissue
  • Wet-wipes

Baby supplies

  • Bibs
  • Diaper cream
  • Diaper pins
  • Diapers, cloth and disposable
  • Diaper Service
  • Formula
  • Receiving blankets for infants
  • Rubber pants

Medicine/ drug store items

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  • Acne treatments, lotions, creams
  • Adhesives used for medical treatment
  • Alcohol, rubbing, swabs and wipes
  • Analgesics
  • Antacids
  • Antiseptics, for external use only
  • Applicators (See “Cotton applicators”)
  • Arch supports
  • Arm slings
  • Artificial eyes
  • Artificial limbs
  • Aspirin
  • Automobile accessories, when noted by the Department of Transportation upon the motor vehicle operator’s license of the purchaser that such accessories are necessary, and when charges for accessories are stated separately by the vendor on the sales invoice.
  • Automobile wheelchair lifts
  • Bandages, dressings, gauze and cotton
  • Bed boards
  • Bed drain bags
  • Bed pans
  • Bed trapeze bars
  • Benzoin
  • Blood glucose monitors used to treat diabetes (therapeutic devices)
  • Blood pack units
  • Bone pins
  • Braces and supports worn on the body to correct or alleviate a physical incapacity
  • Braille teaching texts
  • Breathing units, intermittent positive pressure
  • Burn ointment and lotion
  • Calamine lotion
  • Canes
  • Cardiac emergency kit
  • Cardiac pacemakers and electrodes
  • Castor oil
  • Catheters and accessories
  • Chemical agents and related supplies for analysis of patients’ specimens
  • Cod liver oil
  • Colostomy appliances
  • Colostomy deodorants
  • Commodes, chair bedside
  • Commode seats, elevated for use by incapacitated persons
  • Contact lenses and wetting solutions
  • Corn pads and plasters for the removal of corns
  • Cotton applicators, cotton rolls, cotton balls and cotton swabs
  • Cough and cold items, cough drops, cough syrups
  • Crutches
  • Crutch pads
  • Defibrillators
  • Dental floss
  • Dental materials used in dental treatment, including x-ray film, cotton, impression and materials
  • Dentist drills, disposable
  • Dentist materials which are transferred to the patient, including dentures, fillings, crowns, inlays, bridges and lingual or palatal bars
  • Denture products, including denture cleaners and adhesives
  • Dialysis machines
  • Diathermy machines
  • Dietary supplements and substitutes, in any form
  • Diet pills
  • Drapes, paper
  • Elastic bandages and braces
  • Emesis basins or pans
  • Epsom salts
  • Examining table paper
  • Eye ointment
  • Eye pads
  • Eye washes
  • Eyeglasses, prescription
  • False teeth
  • First aid kits
  • Fluidic breathing assistor
  • Food substitutes
  • Foot pads, insoles, all types
  • Foot products for treatment of infections
  • Gauze
  • Gloves, surgical, disposable
  • Glucose tablets
  • Glycerine
  • Gowns, medical
  • Hearing aids and batteries
  • Heating pads
  • Hospital beds, having side rails, electric and non-electric with attachments
  • Hot water bottles
  • Hygienic needs, douche powder, vaginal preparations
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ice bags
  • Ileostomy bags
  • Incontinence products, including incontinence pants
  • Infusion pumps
  • Inhalation therapy equipment and equipment used to provide emergency breathing assistance
  • Insulin
  • IUD devices
  • Lactose intolerance medication
  • Lamps, ultraviolet and infrared
  • Lancets
  • Laxatives and cathartics
  • Lice shampoo
  • Lifters, patient
  • Lubricating jelly
  • Lymphedema pumps
  • Mattresses, alternating positive pressure
  • Mattresses and covers for hospital beds
  • Medicated powder
  • Medicine cups, disposable
  • Milk of magnesia
  • Muscle stimulator, electronic for physical therapy
  • Nasal cannula
  • Needles, disposable
  • Orthodontic brackets
  • Orthopedic splints
  • Oxygen and oxygen equipment, when used for medical treatment
  • Pads, moist heat pad, alternating positive pressure pad, flotation pad, lambs wool pad
  • Paraffin bath units, standard or portable
  • Pet medicines
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Physical therapy equipment, when designed exclusively for use in correcting or alleviating a physical incapacity
  • Postural drainage boards
  • Postural support chairs
  • Pre-moistened wipes
  • Prophylactics
  • Prostheses (mammary, malar, chin, urinary, incontinence, etc.)
  • Pump, diaphragm, pressure vacuum
  • Rectal preparations
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons and similar items
  • Sheets, disposable
  • Shoe insoles, orthopedically designed
  • Sitz bath
  • Smoking deterrents, gum and patch
  • Specimen containers, disposable
  • Stair gliders for persons having a physical disability, installed in the purchaser’s home and pursuant to a physician’s prescription
  • Styptic pencils
  • Sunburn treatment lotions or creams
  • Suppositories
  • Surgical instruments and supplies, single use disposable
  • Surgical masks, disposable
  • Sutures
  • Syringes, disposable
  • Test strips used in treatment of diabetes
  • Thermal pads, disposable
  • Thermometer covers, disposable
  • Tongue depressor, disposable
  • Toothache drops
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Tourniquets
  • Trachea tubes
  • Traction units, including bed stand, anklet, extension, pelvic or cervical units, head holder, fracture unit with trapeze bar set, weights, weight bags, pelvic lacing belt, and over door traction equipment
  • Tubing, intravenous
  • Urine drain bag
  • Vaginal diaphragms
  • Vitamins
  • Walking bars and walkers
  • Wheelchairs, manual and motorized, scooters and batteries

Miscellaneous

  • Bullion, investment metal
  • Body tattooing and piercing
  • Cable TV
  • Caskets, burial vaults, markers, cremation urns and tombstones for human graves, including foundations
  • Coins, investment (numismatic coins and legal tender)
  • Coupon books sold to individual consumers
  • Safety equipment and devices designed and worn by production personnel employed in manufacturing, processing, mining, public utility, farming and dairying. Examples: asbestos suits, 17 31 gloves, aprons, boots, masks, helmets, goggles and similar items
  • Flags of the U.S. and Commonwealth. Bunting and other flags are taxable.
  • Gift cards
  • Health club membership fees
  • Parking fees
  • Pony rides and trail rides
  • Tanning booth fees

Optical goods

  • Contact lenses and wetting solutions
  • Eyeglasses, prescription

Pets

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  • Boarding, sitting or walking
  • Flea collars, flea powder, flea and tick soap and tick sprays
  • Medicines and medical supplies
  • Pet cremation and burial services
  • Veterinarian services

Restaurant equipment

  • Carbon dioxide for soda fountain
  • Chef Hats
  • Work uniforms
  • Wrapping supplies, paper or plastic plates, cups and similar articles for the delivery of food, used by restaurants or in vending machines

Shoes

  • Overshoes
  • Safety shoes
  • Shoe dye
  • Shoe laces
  • Shoe polish
  • Shoe repairs
  • Slippers
  • Shoe soles and heels for shoe repair
  • Shower clogs
  • Sneakers, jogging, tennis and aerobic shoes
  • Toe sneakers

Sporting equipment

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  • Baseball caps and tee shirts
  • Bowling shirts
  • Gym suits, outfits
  • Hunting clothing, including camouflage and blaze orange
  • Jogging outfits, running shoes
  • Sneakers, jogging, tennis and aerobic shoes, etc.
  • Snowmobile suits
  • Warm-up suits, cloth sweat suits

Utilities

  • Coal
  • Coin-operated telephone charges
  • Firewood, kindling and wood pellets for residential use
  • Fuel oil, gas, steam or electricity purchased for residential use
  • Basic telephone service and subscriber line charges for residential use
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