Ed note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated with the latest info.

What do vitamins, chef hats, pony rides, silos, candy apples, shoulder pads, cable TV, and hemp diapers all have in common?

In Pennsylvania, they’re exempt from the state’s sales tax.

Purchases in the Keystone State are generally subject to a 6% sales tax on top of the cost of whatever you’re buying (it’s the most common rate among U.S. states right now). Some localities add their own municipal sales tax on top of that — in Philadelphia, you pay an additional 2%.

But what’s actually taxed and what’s not can get complicated. For instance, pet cremation services are non-taxable, but pet caskets are taxed. Sunburn treatments are tax-free, but preventative sunblock isn’t. And pumpkins escape sales tax, but only if they’re used for food and not decoration.

Here’s an overview of many of the hundreds of things in Pennsylvania that aren’t subject to sales tax, according to a list from the Pa. Department of Revenue.

Books and periodicals

  • Mail order catalogs
  • Newspapers “of general circulation qualified to carry a legal advertisement”
  • Periodicals and magazines you receive through a subscription
  • Textbooks, when they’re sold by a school or authorized bookstore
Credit: Creative Commons

Business materials

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


In general, clothing isn’t usually taxed in Pa., but there are some exceptions, including formalwear, many furs (both real and synthetic), costumes, and specialized sports wear (e.g. helmets, baseball gloves, etc.). 

Here are some examples of untaxed clothing items, as provided by the Dept. of Revenue:

  • Aprons
  • Belts and suspenders
  • Boots and shoes designed for everyday wear
  • Cloth and leather gloves for everyday wear
  • Dress shields
  • Face masks
  • Garters and garter belts
  • Girdles
  • Gardening gloves
  • Gym suits
  • 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
  • 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
Credit: Wikimedia Commons


The overarching rule: shoes meant for typical, everyday wear are tax-exempt. But footwear for special occasions or for specific sports — think bowling shoes or swimming shoes — are taxable. 

Some examples of non-taxable shoes and shoe supplies include:

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

Sporting equipment

  • Baseball caps and T-shirts
  • Bowling shirts
  • Jogging outfits, running shoes
  • Sneakers, jogging, tennis, and aerobic shoes, etc.
  • Snowmobile suits
  • Warm-up suits, cloth sweat suits
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Craft and sewing supplies

The overarching principle in Pa.’s tax laws when it comes to craft and sewing supplies is that things that are eventually going to become part of everyday clothing (i.e. the nontaxable kind) aren’t taxable. But the equipment used for sewing can be taxable, and any craft/sewing materials used to make non-clothing items are taxable too.

Some examples of nontaxable craft/sewing supplies:

  • Buckles for clothing
  • Buttons for clothing
  • Dress patterns
  • Dye, clothing fabric
  • Elastics for clothing
  • Embroidery of clothing
  • Fabrics for 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


  • Artificial breeding equipment and supplies
  • Blacksmith/farrier services for commercial racehorses or horses used directly in farming
  • Building supplies and materials, if they’re being for building or repair of a roofed structure or facility, or a portion of the facility, that’s used occupied by livestock or poultry
  • Cleaners and disinfectants used specifically for cleaning milking equipment and sterilizing milk cans to prevent spoilage (things used for general farm cleaning and maintenance are taxed)
  • Equipment used to extract a product from productive animals or from the soil, like harvesters, combines, binders, forage blowers, milking equipment, egg collecting equipment, corn shuckers, threshers, manure handling equipment
  • Equipment like 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 like 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)
  • Multipurpose agricultural vehicle (ATV), when used for farming
  • Pest control services for agricultural purposes
  • Property like seeders, planters, plows, harrows, cultivators, and sprayers used to till soil, plant, seed, and care for productive plants
  • Property that becomes an ingredient or constituent of a farm product or is consumed by productive animals or plant growth — like seeds, fertilizer, chemical additives, etc., 
  • Property used to handle, store, or preserve farm products or productive animals on farm premises like chemicals, grooming equipment (dehorners, debeakers, hoof trimmers, calf weaners, etc.)
  • Refrigeration or cooling equipment for storing and preserving farm products
  • Replacement parts like tires, motors, belts, cutting edges, air filters, gears, and similar replacement parts installed on exempt equipment
  • Seeds
  • Silos
  • Supplies like motor fuels, lubricants, compressed air, distilled water, and abrasives used to operate exempt machinery
  • Water pump for farm use
  • Wrapping supplies and containers which are non-returnable to deliver self-produced farm products
Credit: Creative Commons

Flowers and seeds for non-farmers

  • Vegetable seeds, vegetable plants, and fruit trees bought with food stamps (they’re taxable when not purchased using food stamps)

CBD and hemp products

Generally, CBD and hemp products are taxable unless they fall into another sales tax-exempt category. Below are some examples of non-taxable CBD products, according to the Pa. Dept. of Revenue. 

Note: Something appearing on this list is not a “representation as to the legality of the products,” per the department. Regulations and guidance around CBD products in Pa. have been somewhat confusing in recent years.

  • Clothing and shoes
  • Edible
  • Gummies
  • Hemp diapers
  • Hemp fuel (may be subject to alternative fuels)
  • Inhaler
  • Nasal spray
  • Oral drops
  • Patch
  • Pills
  • Protein powder
  • Seed milk
  • Superfood supplement
  • Tinctures

Food sold by a vendor that specializes in ready-to-eat food, like a caterer or restaurant

If you’re eating food from somewhere that specializes in ready-to-eat food or drinks — for example, a restaurant, cafeteria, food truck, amusement park, hotel, or stadium — then you’re going to pay sales tax on most items. The handful of excepted items are:

  • Candy and gum
  • Ice
  • Water

Food sold at grocery stores, convenience stores, delis, etc (not prepared)

Per the Department of Revenue, food is not generally taxed when it’s sold from a grocery store, farmer’s market, deli, bakery, etc. There are some notable exceptions though, like soft drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, breath mints, sandwiches, and hot food items or prepared meals that don’t require additional prep — you’ll have to pay the typical sales tax on those.

Here’s a list of things that are indeed nontaxable in Pennsylvania:

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Beer, six packs (unless sold by a distributor)
  • Bitters and grenadine
  • Candy apples
  • Candy and gum
  • Caramel corn
  • Coffee beans, whole or ground
  • Coffee, cold bottled and flavored (brewed/hot coffee is taxed)
  • Deli items such as meats and cheeses, potato salad, macaroni salad, etc.
  • Energy drinks and shots less than 4 ounces (if it’s 4 ounces or over, it’s taxed)
  • Food, fruit drinks, soft drinks, and sandwiches purchased with food stamps
  • Food supplements in any form
  • Fruit drinks, non-carbonated or reconstituted, containing at least 25% natural fruit juice
  • Ice
  • Milk
  • Party trays, vegetable, cheese, seafood, meat
  • Power/energy bars
  • Pretzels and chips
  • Protein bars
  • Pumpkins, when used as food (but must be taxed if for decoration)
  • Soy milk
  • Tea in all forms including liquid and powdered tea (but except hot tea)
  • Water, including non-flavored mineral water (flavored water is taxed)
Credit: Photographer: Constantin Barbu

Restaurant equipment and supplies

  • 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

Paper household goods

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

Baby supplies

  • Baby wipes
  • Bibs
  • Diaper cream
  • Diaper pins
  • Diapers, cloth and disposable (but not including swim diapers)
  • Diaper service
  • Formula
  • Receiving blankets for infants
  • Rubber pants

Optical goods and eyecare

  • Artificial eyes
  • Contact wetting solutions
  • Eye ointment
  • Eye pads
  • Eye washes
  • Prescription contact lenses 
  • Prescription eyeglasses

Dental and orthodontic supplies

  • Dental floss (Waterpiks and water flossers are taxed, though)
  • Dental materials which are transferred to the patient, including dentures, fillings, crowns, inlays, bridges, and lingual or palatal bars
  • Dental materials used in dental treatment, including x-ray film, cotton, impression, and materials
  • Denture products, including denture cleaners and adhesives
  • Disposable dentist drills
  • Electric toothbrushes and replacement brushes for electric toothbrushes
  • False teeth
  • Orthodontic brackets
  • Tooth cleaners
  • Toothache drops
  • Toothpaste

Cosmetics and toiletries

  • Hair restorative medications
  • Sunburn treatment — lotions or creams (but not preventative lotions or creams, nor sun allergy creams)

Medical supplies, medicines, supplements, and other health-related items

  • Acne treatments, lotions, creams
  • Adhesives used for medical treatment
  • Alcohol — rubbing, swabs, and wipes
  • Alternating positive pressure mattresses
  • Analgesics
  • Antacids
  • Antiseptics, for external use only
  • Arch supports
  • Arm slings
  • Artificial limbs
  • Aspirin
  • Automobile accessories, when the Department of Transportation says it’s necessary for the buyer and when the charges for the 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
  • Breast pumps
  • Burn ointment and lotion
  • Calamine lotion
  • Canes
  • Cardiac emergency kit
  • Cardiac pacemakers and electrodes
  • Castor oil
  • Catheters and accessories
  • Chair bedside commodes
  • Chemical agents and related supplies for analysis of patients’ specimens
  • Cod liver oil
  • Colostomy appliances
  • Colostomy deodorants
  • Corn pads and plasters for removing corns
  • Cotton applicators, cotton rolls, cotton balls, and cotton swabs
  • Cough and cold items, cough drops, cough syrups
  • Crutches
  • Crutch pads
  • Defibrillators
  • Dialysis machines
  • Diathermy machines
  • Dietary supplements and substitutes, in any form
  • Diet pills
  • Disposable medicine cups
  • Disposable needles and syringes
  • Disposable sheets
  • Disposable specimen containers
  • Disposable surgical gloves
  • Disposable surgical masks
  • Disposable thermal pads
  • Disposable thermometer covers
  • Disposable tongue depressor
  • Elastic bandages and braces
  • Electronic muscle stimulator for physical therapy
  • Elevated commode seats for use by persons who are incapacitated
  • Emesis basins or pans
  • Epsom salts
  • Examining table paper
  • First aid kits
  • Fluidic breathing assistor
  • Food substitutes
  • Foot pads, insoles — all types
  • Foot products for treatment of infections
  • Gauze
  • Glucose tablets
  • Glycerine
  • Hearing aids and batteries
  • Heating pads
  • Hospital beds with 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 for emergency breathing assistance
  • Insulin
  • Insulin pumps
  • Intermittent positive pressure breathing units
  • Intravenous tubing
  • IUD devices
  • Lactose intolerance medication
  • Lamps — ultraviolet and infrared
  • Lancets
  • Laxatives and cathartics
  • Lice shampoo
  • Lubricating jelly
  • Lymphedema pumps
  • Mattresses and covers for hospital beds
  • Medical gowns
  • Medicated powder
  • Milk of magnesia
  • Nasal cannula
  • Orthopedically designed shoe insoles
  • Orthopedic splints
  • Oxygen and oxygen equipment, when used for medical treatment
  • Pads — moist heat pad, alternating positive pressure pad, flotation pad, lamb’s wool pad
  • Paraffin bath units, standard or portable
  • Patient lifters
  • Paper drapes
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Physical therapy equipment, when designed solely to use in correcting or alleviating a physical incapacity
  • Postural drainage boards
  • Postural support chairs
  • Prefilled syringes for injection
  • Pre-moistened wipes
  • Prophylactics
  • Prostheses (mammary, malar, chin, urinary, incontinence, etc.)
  • Pump, diaphragm, pressure vacuum
  • Rectal preparations
  • Single-use disposable surgical instruments and supplies
  • Sitz bath
  • Smoking deterrents — gum and patch
  • Stair gliders for people with physical disabilities, when prescribed by a doctor and installed in the buyer’s home
  • Styptic pencils
  • Suppositories
  • Sutures
  • Test strips used in diabetes treatment
  • 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
  • Urine drain bag
  • Vaginal diaphragms
  • Vitamins
  • Walking bars and walkers
  • Wheelchairs — manual and motorized, scooters and batteries
Credit: Picasa 2.7


  • Boarding, sitting, or walking
  • Flea collars, flea powder, flea and tick soap, and tick sprays for use on pets
  • Medicines and medical supplies
  • Pet cremation and burial services (pet caskets and urns are taxable, though)
  • Veterinarian services


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


  • Acupuncture and massage services
  • Body tattooing and piercing services
  • Bullion, investment metal
  • 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 include asbestos suits, gloves, aprons, boots, masks, helmets, goggles, and similar items)
  • Flags of the U.S. and Commonwealth (bunting and other flags are taxable)
  • Gift cards
  • Golf green fees
  • Health club membership fees
  • Parking fees (may be subject to Hotel Occupancy Tax)
  • Pony rides and trail rides
  • Retail club memberships
  • Tanning booth fees
  • Tickets for admission to theaters, concerts, sporting events, amusement parks, and other amusement or activity complexes

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...