sales tax exemptionsVeterans of the United States military deserve our respect and gratitude. They serve our country, often with little reward and at great personal cost. As a token of appreciation for that service, a number of states provide sales tax breaks to veterans. Laws vary by state, but often the breaks apply only to motor vehicles, where sales tax can add a great deal to the final cost, and they’re often available only to veterans who were disabled during active duty.

Oklahoma is an outlier, offering a sales tax exemption on all purchases to veterans who are 100% disabled. More common is the policy in Massachusetts, where each disabled veteran may purchase one passenger vehicle or pick-up exempt from sales tax, or Vermont, where vehicle sales tax doesn’t apply to certain disabled veterans who have had their motor vehicle modified to accommodate their disability. But Arkansas has the most interesting exemption. Arkansas provides a sales and use tax exemption for new motor vehicles sold to blind veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.

You read that right: blind veterans may purchase a car tax-free.

The exemption

Arkansas Code 26-52-415 reads, in pertinent part:

Gross receipts and gross proceeds derived from the sale of new automobiles to a veteran of the United States armed services who is blind as the result of a service-connected injury shall be exempt from the Arkansas gross receipts tax.”

Veterans seeking the exemption must provide the Department of Finance and Administration with a statement from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs certifying the following:

  • The individual is a veteran of the United States armed services
  • The individual is blind as the result of a service-connected injury

There are a couple of restrictions. Blind veterans are limited to one new automobile every two years, and the exemption does not apply to “trucks with a maximum gross load in excess of three-quarters (3/4) of one (1) ton,” or trailers.

There seems to be no irony in this exemption. All the sources I found, from to the U.S. Army official benefits website, described it in a very matter-of-fact way: “new automobiles

[sold] to a Veteran who is blind as a result of a service-connected injury” are exempt from gross receipts tax. Even the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration takes its normal position, listing the exemption and noting that in Fiscal Year 2011, for example, it cost the state more than $6,000 in sales tax revenue.

Why cars?

The loss of vision in the service of the nation is a great sacrifice. If this exemption helps only one blinded veteran in Arkansas, then I’m glad it exists. But it sort of begs the question: Why specifically exempt cars for blinded veterans? Or rather, why stop at that? Why not also provide a sales tax exemption for groceries (which are subject to a reduced rate of sales tax in Arkansas but are still taxed) and clothing and other goods and services?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that sales tax is a fickle thing. And sometimes, it’s downright wacky.