Are pets subject to sales tax?

One item you rarely see on lists of what is taxable or exempt from sales tax: animals. Pet owners certainly don’t think of their beloved Miss Boots or Rascal as a "product." They are members of the family!

But we usually do pay a fee when we bring home a new furry friend, either to a rescue group, animal shelter, pet store, or breeder. And, in some states, that can mean paying sales tax on your Saluki.

How much sales tax on that doggie in the window?

When you buy a pet from a breeder, states generally add sales tax to the purchase price. In California, sales tax applies to the sales of “nonfood animals,” which includes not only dogs and cats but monkeys, llamas, hamsters, and earthworms. Definitely plan on paying CA sales tax on your pet earthworm. Fortunately, earthworms aren’t very expensive, even with sales tax.

California isn't alone in charging sales tax on pets. New YorkTexas, and New Jersey are on the long list of states that tax sales of pets. Michigan specifies that even goldfish are taxable, and Minnesota remembered to include gerbils on its list.

Sales tax often applies to pet-related services such as grooming and boarding, as well as pet food. So plan to pay sales tax on your Siamese, your Yorkshire terrier, or your llama. A small price for years of companionship.

Exemptions from sales tax for pets

If you adopt a pet from a nonprofit animal rescue organization or Humane Society chapter in Ohio, you can take home Sir Snufflebug the Third tax free and give a loyal mutt a new lease on life. Don’t count on this exemption everywhere: Washington gives no sales tax exemptions to nonprofits, not even for saving adorable kitties and puppies from an unhappy fate.

In New York, helper dogs such as guide dogs, hearing dogs, and other service dogs are tax free. Maine doesn’t apply tax to sales of seeing eye dogs or supplies for such dogs, under an exemption for services that aid blind persons. Texas exempts not only guide dogs but those used for herding as well.

Florida exempts pet foods that are part of “therapeutic veterinary diets.”  When Woots the Weimaraner shuffles off to the big dog park in the sky in Wisconsin, you can have him cremated tax free.

As with almost every other sales tax law, sales taxes on pets and pet services and products vary from state to state. But what’s a little sales tax when you gain a buddy who’s always happy to see you when you come home? Whether it’s Buddy the beagle, Prudence the Persian, or even Edie the earthworm, one soft snuggle and you’ll forget all about the sales tax.

Businesses can't forget about sales tax, of course, but they can simplify sales tax compliance by automating it

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