Tennessee makes permanent sales tax exemption for gun safes

Gun safes and gun safety devices are exempt from Tennessee sales tax as of November 1, 2023.

Tennessee provided a sales tax holiday for gun safes and gun safety devices from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, then extended the sales tax holiday through June 30, 2023. But since a sales tax holiday can only last so long, gun safes and gun safety devices became subject to Tennessee sales tax again effective July 1, 2023.

That changed with the enactment of House Bill 7012, which established a permanent sales and use tax exemption for firearm safes and firearm safety devices starting November 1, 2023.

For the purposes of the exemption, Tennessee defines “firearm safe” as “a locking container or other enclosure … equipped with a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or other locking device that is designed and intended for the secure storage of one or more firearms.” Glass-faced containers do not qualify for the exemption.

A firearm safety device is:

  • A device that, when installed on a firearm, is designed to prevent a firearm from being operated without first deactivating the device, or
  • A device to be equipped or installed on a firearm that is designed to prevent the operation of a firearm by anyone who does not have authorized access to the firearm.

How much will sales tax collections decrease?

According to the fiscal note for HB7012, sales of firearm safes and firearm safety devices in Tennessee totaled $22,926,524 during fiscal year 2022–2023. Exempting these items from sales tax is expected to decrease state sales tax revenue by $1,073,777 in fiscal year 2023–2024 and by $1,610,666 in subsequent years.

Local sales tax revenue will likely decrease by $437,252 in fiscal year 2023–2024 and by $655,878 in subsequent years.

States where gun safes are exempt from sales tax

Several states provide a sales tax exemption for gun safes and/or gun safety devices. These include:

Ohio may soon join this list: A bill seeking to exempt sales of firearm safety devices from state and local sales and use taxes is currently making its way through the Ohio Legislature.

States where guns are exempt from sales tax

Mississippi provides an annual Second Amendment tax-free period each August. During the three-day tax-free period, ammunition, firearms, and certain hunting supplies are exempt from both state and local sales tax. Safety equipment that’s mounted or affixed to a bow or firearm qualifies for the temporary sales tax exemption, but gun safes do not.

After a five-year hiatus, Louisiana reinstated its Second Amendment state sales tax holiday in 2023. However, gun safes and safety devices aren’t eligible for the temporary sales tax exemption.

Learn about other 2023 sales tax holidays.

It’s political

Whether a state chooses to exempt guns or gun safes is largely political, as is most tax policy. The Democratic-majority states of California and Washington are unlikely to provide an exemption for guns, and both Los Angeles and Seattle impose a special tax on firearms and ammunition. By contrast, proposals for Second Amendment sales tax holidays tend to surface in the more Republican states of the South.

But the United States is a vast and complex nation. There are gun enthusiasts up and down the blue West Coast, and lawmakers in Tennessee managed to establish a sales tax exemption for gun safes, not guns. In short, sales tax is full of unexpected surprises — and businesses need to keep up with them.

Automating sales tax calculation can help.

This post has been updated; it originally published in June 2021.

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