Trade show floor with people and exhibits.

Selling at trade shows? Here’s a state-by-state sales tax guide.

Whether you find them exhausting or exhilarating, fun or a drag, trade shows are indispensable for many businesses. They offer unparalleled networking opportunities and can be a terrific way to promote your company’s services and wares. But they also come with potential pitfalls, and I’m not talking about sore feet. Participation in a trade show can create new sales tax obligations for your company.

Businesses are required to obtain a sales tax permit and comply with all applicable sales and use tax laws in jurisdictions where they have nexus — a connection. There are several ways for a business to establish sales tax nexus, and physical presence in a state is one of the most common. In some states, participating in just one trade show per year is enough to give an out-of-state company a sales tax obligation.

As your marketing and events teams finalize schedules for working the booth and ensure there’s plenty of swag for the tables, it’s important to let your finance departments in on your plans. You want your trade shows to generate sales, not unexpected tax bills.

    Where does attending a trade show create sales tax nexus?

    For the most part, states require businesses to register for sales tax if those businesses intend to make taxable sales in a state. However, some states allow a little leeway for out-of-state businesses whose only activity in the state is attending or participating in a trade show, especially when no orders are taken or sales are made at the events.

    Registration requirements vary by state. Some states have clear guidelines about trade show activity and sales tax, either from statutes or departments of revenue rulings, or both. Unfortunately, many states don’t.

    The following state-by-state guide to trade show sales tax reveals how different state requirements can be. This is not tax advice, but it gives an idea of how trade shows can impact your sales tax obligations.

    Where clear guidance on trade show participation is unavailable, we provide more general information. After this state-by-state chart, we consider how long sales tax nexus can last, and what else you need to know about trade shows and sales tax.

    Alabama

    A seller engaged in making retail sales of tangible personal property for storage, use, or consumption in Alabama is required to register for sales and use tax if it has any contact with the state that would allow Alabama to require the seller to collect and remit sales or use tax.

     

    See the Alabama Department of Revenue.

    Alaska

    There’s no state sales tax in Alaska, but a seller may establish physical presence in a local taxing jurisdiction in Alaska by soliciting business or receiving orders through any employee, agent, salesperson, or other representative within the boundaries of the local taxing jurisdiction, or by engaging in activities in the state that are significantly associated with the seller’s ability to establish or maintain a market for its products in the state.

     

    See the Uniform Alaska Remote Sellers Sales Tax Code.

    Arizona

    If you are in Arizona to conduct taxable business activity, regardless of the duration of the stay, you likely have physical nexus. If you travel to Arizona for a conference and don’t generate gross receipts for your business while in the state, you generally wouldn’t establish physical nexus, regardless of the duration of the stay.

    Transitory (short-term) activities performed in Arizona do not create physical nexus. Activities are not “transitory” if they generate gross receipts in Arizona, and the retailer regularly conducts the same business outside Arizona.

     

    If you make sales at a trade show in Arizona and usually make similar sales outside of Arizona, you are considered a temporary retailer and must pay transaction privilege tax (TPT) on all sales made at the trade show.

     

    See the Arizona Department of Revenue.

    Arkansas

    A promoter or organizer of a special event is required to register for sales tax collection and give each vendor a special event tax reporting form. A special event means “an entertainment, amusement, recreational, or marketing event which occurs at a single location on an irregular basis and where tangible personal property is sold.”

     

    See the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

    California

    If you sell merchandise at a trade show, or take orders for merchandise delivered later to California customers, you typically need to register for sales tax and charge tax on those sales.

     

    If you don’t sell or take orders for merchandise, registration may not be required. Generally, a remote retailer is not “engaged in business” in California when:

    • The retailer’s physical presence in California is solely to engage in trade show activities;
    • The retailer or its representatives participate in trade show activities for not more than 15 days during any 12-month period; and
    • The retailer doesn’t earn more than $100,000 of net income from trade show activities in the state.

     

    See the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

    Colorado

    You must obtain a special event license (unless the event organizer has obtained a license to collect tax on behalf of sellers participating in the event) if you make retail sales at one or more special sales events. A special sales event is an event occurring no more than three times in a calendar year where retail sales are made by more than three sellers at a location other than their normal business location(s).

     

    See the Colorado Department of Revenue.

    There may be local sales tax registration, collection, and remittance requirements as well.

    Connecticut

    You must obtain a Sales and Use Tax Permit if you’ll be selling at a trade show in Connecticut, even if only making sales for one day, regardless of the number of sales made or amount of tax collected.

     

    However, a retailer not otherwise engaged in business in Connecticut that participates in trade shows at the Connecticut Convention Center for 14 days or less (during the retailer’s income year) is not required to register with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) and collect sales or use tax as long as:

    • The retailer’s activity at the trade show(s) is limited to displaying goods or promoting services;
    • No sales are made; and
    • Any orders received are sent outside Connecticut for acceptance or rejection and are filled from outside Connecticut.

     

    See the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services.

    DelawareThere is no general sales tax in Delaware.
    Florida

    Trade show exhibitors typically need to register to collect, report, and remit Florida sales tax and discretionary sales surtax on taxable sales of tangible personal property or service.

     

    However, exhibitors that conduct no other business requiring registration in Florida generally aren’t required to register if: 

    • The exhibitor agreement prohibits the sale of tangible personal property or services; or 
    • The exhibitor agreement only allows the exhibitor to make sales for resale.

     

    See the Florida Department of Revenue.

    Georgia

    Out-of-state sellers may be required to register then collect tax on all sales of tangible personal property made at a convention or trade show in Georgia, and on sales made from orders taken at a convention or trade show in the state.

     

    However, out-of-state sellers usually aren’t required to register for sales and use tax if:

    • The seller’s sole physical presence in Georgia is due to convention and trade show activities;
    • The seller (and its representatives) does not engage in convention and trade show activities in Georgia for more than five days during any 12-month period; and
    • The seller didn’t derive more than $100,000 of net income from convention and trade show activities in Georgia during the prior calendar year.

     

    See the Georgia Department of Revenue.

    Hawaii

    You’re required to register for the Hawaii general excise tax (GET) if your business has a physical presence in the state, which includes having employees or representatives in Hawaii.

     

    The gross proceeds of sales by a vendor through the use of exhibit or display space at a conference, convention, or trade show are subject to GET. If applicable, you may register for a one-time event.

     

    See Chapter 237, HRS, General Excise Tax Law.

    Idaho

    In general, you’re required to register then collect and remit sales tax on taxable sales made in the state. Anyone making infrequent retail sales in Idaho should obtain a temporary seller’s permit. You can get up to three temporary seller’s permits per calendar year. After that, a regular seller’s permit is required.

     

    See the Idaho State Tax Commission

    Illinois

    Sales made by retailers at an Illinois trade show are subject to Illinois sales tax. Out-of-state retailers not otherwise required to collect and remit Illinois sales or use tax may complete a Special Event Tax Collection Report and Payment Coupon Form.

     

    A remote retailer generally won’t establish nexus through trade show activity provided if:

    • The retailer attends no more than two Illinois trade shows during the preceding 12-month period;
    • The retailer is physically presents at those two trade shows for no more than eight days during the preceding 12-month period; and
    • Combined gross receipts from taxable sales made at all Illinois trade shows during the preceding 12-month period do not exceed $10,000. 

     

    See the Illinois Administrative Code Section 150.802 Trade Show Appearances.

    Indiana

    Attending a trade show may create a sales tax obligation in Indiana. A retail merchant has a physical presence in the state if an agent, representative, or salesperson operating under its authority bills, invoices, or takes orders for sales of tangible personal property or services to be consumed, stored, or used in Indiana.

     

    See Indiana Code Section 6-2.5-2-1(c).

    Iowa

    If you attend a temporary event and make taxable sales of goods or services in Iowa, you are required to obtain a tax permit. Exhibitors who do not sell products do not need tax permits in Iowa.

     

    See the Iowa Department of Revenue.

    Kansas

    Anyone making retail sales, collecting admissions, and/or renting tangible personal property in Kansas must register then collect and remit sales tax, even if selling only one time per year at a special event like a convention or trade show.

     

    If you attend one, two, or three special events, you may file a special event return. Vendors attending more than four events in Kansas annually are required to register their business for a Kansas sales tax number.

     

    Registration may not be required for businesses that make no sales and take no orders at a trade show event.

     

    See the Kansas Department of Revenue.

    Kentucky

    Every seller that conducts business as a retailer or seller in Kentucky must register for a seller’s permit to do business.

     

    Occasional sales are exempt from Kentucky sales and use tax, and the seller doesn’t need to obtain a seller’s permit. “To qualify as an occasional sale, the seller individuals or non-retail businesses such as service enterprises must not have made more than two sales in any 12-month period.”

     

    See the Kentucky Department of Revenue.

    Louisiana

    If you participate in special events in Louisiana, which include trade shows, you must have a Louisiana sales tax account. All persons and entities making retail sales within Louisiana must collect and remit sales tax, even if selling only one time per year.

     

    See the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

    Maine

    Sales and use tax registration is required for every seller of tangible personal property or taxable services who does not have a business location in Maine but makes retail sales in Maine or solicits orders by means of salespersons in Maine.

     

    However, Maine provides an exclusion for attendance at trade shows, seminars, and conferences, provided employees or representatives of the out-of-state business do not solicit sales while in Maine.

     

    See Maine Revenue Services.

    Maryland

    Individuals with no permanent sales tax license may need to obtain a Temporary Sales and Use Tax License to participate in a one-time event involving the sale of tangible personal property in Maryland.

     

    See the Comptroller of Maryland.

    Massachusetts

    Vendors with no presence in Massachusetts apart from appearances at trade shows are not engaged in business in Massachusetts unless they solicit orders at trade shows held in Massachusetts for more than three days in one year.

     

    However, all sales of inventory that a vendor brings to a show in Massachusetts are subject to Massachusetts sales tax. All vendors must register and collect tax on sales of tangible personal property in Massachusetts, regardless of how often the vendor is in the state.

     

    See the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

    Michigan

    An out-of-state seller does not have nexus with Michigan if their only connection to the state is:

    • Attending a trade show at which no orders for goods are taken and no sales are made, or
    • Participating in a trade show at which no orders for goods are taken and no sales are made, for fewer than 10 days cumulatively on an annual basis.

     

    See the Michigan Department of Treasury.

    Minnesota

    According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, a business is maintaining a place of business in the state and has sufficient physical presence nexus in Minnesota to be required to collect Minnesota sales or use tax when it conducts business activity in Minnesota on at least four days during a 12-month period. This includes engaging in conventions or trade shows, or conducting seminars or similar events for the purpose of promoting or conducting business activity while in Minnesota.

     

    Each day, or part of a day, that a business participates in a trade show is counted as a day for purposes of determining physical presence nexus for sales and use tax purposes, except for setting up or tearing down displays before and after trade shows (and similar events). 

     

    A business is required to register, collect, and remit Minnesota sales or use tax on sales made from outside Minnesota to destinations in Minnesota starting on the fourth day of such activity and for all sales made that day through the following 11 calendar months. 

     

    See the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

    Mississippi

    Businesses that have nexus with Mississippi must register with the state tax authority and collect and remit tax on taxable transactions. Isolated or occasional sales (except sales of motor vehicles) made by persons not regularly engaged in business are not subject to sales tax.

     

    See the Mississippi Department of Revenue and Title 35, Part IV, Sales and Use Tax

    Missouri

    Anyone making retail sales at a special event in Missouri must obtain a sales tax license and collect and remit sales tax.

     

    A vendor will not establish a physical presence with Missouri if its only contact with the state is occasionally attending a trade show at which no orders for goods are taken and no sales are made.

     

    See the Missouri Department of Revenue and Section 12 CSR 10-114.100.

    MontanaThere is no general sales tax in Montana.
    Nebraska

    According to the Nebraska Department of Revenue, the requirement that any person must have a sales tax permit before lawfully selling property or services at retail in the state applies to all forms of retail selling, including sales made from temporary booths.

     

    In some instances, the promoter or operator of a trade show may agree to collect and remit the tax for those who do not have sales tax permits.

     

    See the Nebraska Department of Revenue.

    Nevada

    For the most part, attending a trade show in Nevada will not establish sales tax nexus for an out-of-state seller. However, having an exhibit at a trade show to maintain or establish a market for products in Nevada typically does create sales tax nexus.

     

    Effective July 1, 2007, items with a nominal value that are given away at conventions, trade shows, and public events are not subject to use tax.

     

    See the Nevada Department of Taxation and NAC 372.844.

    New Jersey

    Anyone who makes retail sales in New Jersey, including sales at trade shows, must register with the state for tax purposes at least 15 business days before the event and collect New Jersey sales tax on all taxable sales. There are no special provisions for temporary vendors.

     

    See the New Jersey Division of Taxation.

    New HampshireThere is no general sales tax in New Hampshire.
    New Mexico

    A single visit to New Mexico for the purpose of furthering business in the state may not be sufficient to trigger sales tax nexus with New Mexico, according to Ruling 401-98-11 (issued by the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue on September 23, 1998), “but certainly more than one visit would constitute substantial nexus, requiring compensating tax collection.” The department concluded that “once a year would be sufficiently regular” to establish nexus.

     

    See the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.

    New York

    Attending a trade show in New York and accepting orders generally establishes sales tax nexus. Registration is required if you solicit sales of taxable products or services through employees, salespersons, independent agents, or service representatives located in, or who enter New York state.

     

    See the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Guide to Sales Tax in New York State.

     

    For New York franchise tax purposes, there is a bright-line nexus test for foreign corporations participating in trade shows in New York state. Nexus is not established if participation is 14 days or less during the taxable year and:

    • The primary purpose is to display goods or promote services;
    • No sales are made; and
    • Any orders received are sent out of state for acceptance or rejection. 

     

    See TSB-M-04(1)C.

    North Carolina

    Attendance by a seller at a single event or function in North Carolina to solicit retail sales in the state establishes physical presence for the seller.

     

    See the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

    North Dakota

    An out-of-state vendor participating at a special event in North Dakota must apply for a sales and use tax permit due to their physical presence in the state. They must collect and remit sales tax on all taxable sales made in North Dakota. This includes future sales made by internet, phone, or mail and delivered or shipped to North Dakota.

     

    See the North Dakota Office of State Tax Commissioner sales tax guidelines, special events.

    Ohio

    An out-of-state seller that does not otherwise have nexus with Ohio is not required to register to collect and remit Ohio sales and use tax if the out-of-state seller:

    • Attends trade shows in the state as a consumer; or
    • Participates in one or more trade shows in the state as an exhibitor provided the out-of-state seller has no more than seven instances of nexus-creating activities in the state in a calendar year and does not have gross sales in the state in excess of $25,000 in that same calendar year.

     

    See the Ohio Department of Taxation Use Tax Nexus Standards.

    Oklahoma

    Vendors at special events must register then collect and remit sales tax on taxable sales. Organizers and promoters of special events must submit a list of expected vendors to the Oklahoma Tax Commission at least 10 days prior to the event, and a list of vendors that actually attended within 15 days after the event.

     

    See the Oklahoma Tax Commission Chapter 65, Sales and Use Tax as well as OAC Section 710:65-9-8 Special event permits and reporting.

    OregonThere is no general sales tax in Oregon.
    Pennsylvania

    Every person, association, fiduciary, partnership, corporation, or other entity making taxable sales of tangible personal property or services must obtain a sales tax license. A non-Pennsylvania enterprise with no permanent, physical business location in Pennsylvania that sells taxable, tangible, personal property or performs taxable services in Pennsylvania is required to obtain a transient vendor certificate.

     

    See the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Sales, Use, and Hotel Occupancy Tax and Retailer’s Information Guide.

    There are different requirements for corporation tax.

    Rhode Island

    Every person, firm, or organization engaged in the business of making retail sales in Rhode Island is required to obtain a sales tax permit, including out-of-state businesses that enter Rhode Island to make sales.

     

    See the Rhode Island Division of Taxation.

    South Carolina

    A retail license is required of every person in the business of selling or auctioning tangible personal property at retail in South Carolina.

     

    Certain retailers may qualify to report their sales on a special events return in lieu of purchasing a sales tax license. A special event includes any promotional show or trade show operating for less than 12 consecutive days for which an admissions fee is required. 

     

    Per SC Revenue Ruling #14-4, a business that sells tangible personal property to residents in South Carolina from outside the state and has an employee visit South Carolina four or more times during the year may establish nexus.

     

    See the South Carolina Department of Revenue Sales and Use Tax Manual (specifically Chapters 13, 22, and 23).

    South Dakota

    You must obtain a temporary South Dakota sales tax license to be a vendor at a special event in the state, which includes exhibitions, expositions, trade shows, and vendor shows.

    All sales at a special event are subject to applicable state and local sales taxes.

     

    If you only display products at a special event, and have no products available for sale, please write “Display Only” on the special event return and send it to the South Dakota Department of Revenue. Use tax is due on items given away (i.e., promotional items).

     

    See the South Dakota Department of Revenue, Special Events.

    Tennessee

    Out-of-state retailers must obtain a certificate of registration and collect and remit sales or use tax if any company personnel conduct in-state promotional activity. This includes participating in trade shows.

     

    See the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

    Texas

    Sellers at trade shows in Texas, including sellers from out of state, are engaged in business in Texas and must have a Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit if they:

    • Sell taxable items or services;
    • Take orders for taxable items or services; or
    • Use the event to promote selling taxable items or services.

     

    When you are no longer engaged in business in Texas, you can close your sales tax permit.

    Depending on your business structure, you may also be responsible for paying franchise tax.

     

    See the Texas Comptroller.

    Utah

    All vendors participating in special events are required to obtain a Temporary Sales Tax License and Special Return from the Utah State Tax Commission. The license/return is only good for the event listed on the form. A special event is a one-time event or an event running for six months or less where taxable sales occur.

     

    An out-of-state business can also establish sales tax nexus by maintaining a sample or display room for longer than 14 days at any one location within Utah during the tax year.

     

    See the Utah State Tax Commission Sales and Use Tax General Information, Special Event Sales Tax, and Publication 37.

    Vermont

    You may be liable for Vermont sales or use tax if you sell or take orders for taxable goods or services while at a trade show in Vermont.

    See the Vermont Department of Taxes and the Vermont Statutes.

    Virginia

    If you sell, lease, distribute, or rent tangible personal property to customers in Virginia, or otherwise meet the definition of a “dealer,” and have “sufficient activity” in Virginia, you have nexus and must register to collect and pay sales tax in Virginia.

     

    If you attend three or more events or shows in a year, you must register for sales tax with the Virginia Department of Taxation. However, any person selling tangible personal property at fairs and other events must collect and remit the tax on all such sales.

     

    See the Virginia Department of Taxation Retail Sales and Use Tax and Temporary Sales Tax Certificate/Return.

    Washington

    Attendance and/or participation at one “trade convention” per calendar year does not establish a physical presence in Washington or nexus for retail sales tax.

     

    This exception does not apply to persons making retail sales at trade conventions (or otherwise making retail sales) in the state, including persons taking orders for products or services where receipt happens in Washington.

     

    A trade show marketed to the general public does not qualify for the “trade convention” exclusion; exhibiting at such a trade show is a nexus-creating activity.

     

    See the Washington State Department of Revenue.

    Washington, D.C.

    An activity that constitutes a “qualified convention or trade show activity” as defined in section 513(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is not a special event. However, participants are liable for Washington, D.C., sales tax on taxable sales.

     

    See the Office of Tax and Revenue, Special Events.

    West Virginia

    You may be liable for collecting and remitting West Virginia sales or use tax if you make sales or take orders while attending a convention or trade show in West Virginia. Out-of-state vendors with a physical presence in West Virginia must collect West Virginia state and local sales and use taxes as applicable.

     

    See the West Virginia Tax Division.

    Wisconsin

    An out-of-state seller making sales at a temporary event in Wisconsin, which includes trade shows, is engaged in business in Wisconsin and liable for sales or use tax on its taxable sales in the state.

     

    If a seller does not make sales at the event itself, but promotes future sales (e.g., gives potential customers business cards or other promotional materials), the seller is still liable for tax on its Wisconsin sales through the end of the seller’s tax year.

     

    Note that taxable sales by persons who do not hold and are not required to hold a seller’s permit are exempt as occasional sales. A person is generally not required to hold a Wisconsin seller’s permit if their taxable sales are less than $2,000 in a calendar year or if the person’s sales are isolated or sporadic.

     

    However, a seller’s taxable sales do not qualify for the occasional sale exemption if the seller holds, or is required to hold, a seller’s permit at the time of the sales.

     

    See the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publication 228, Temporary Events.

    Wyoming

    Sales made by vendors attending trade shows in Wyoming are subject to tax. This applies to out-of-state businesses that have persons advertising or soliciting sales in Wyoming.

     

    See the Wyoming Department of Revenue Vendor Manual

    If you’re not sure whether attending or participating in a trade show will give you an obligation to collect and remit sales tax in a state, ask a trusted tax advisor or the state tax department. If you decide to err on the side of caution and assume attending a trade show will give you nexus, you’ll need to comply with all necessary sales and use tax requirements once you register.

    How long does sales tax nexus last?

    Some states specify that businesses can close their sales tax permits once their business activity in the state has terminated. That’s the case in Texas. Other states enforce trailing nexus policies, meaning you can be required to file sales tax returns for weeks or months after your business activity in the state ceases.

    Once an out-of-state seller has established physical presence nexus with Michigan, for example, the seller will continue to have sales tax nexus for the remainder of that month and for the following 11 months.

    To learn more, read What is trailing nexus and how long does it last?

    What else do I need to know about trade shows and sales tax?

    You may need a license or permit. It may be necessary to obtain a local license when participating in a trade show. The Comptroller of Maryland advises contacting the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction to learn whether a local trader’s license is required. Other states may have similar requirements.

    You may owe use tax on your swag. Use tax requirements vary by state. As noted above, items with a nominal value that are given away at trade shows are not subject to use tax in Nevada. On the other hand, use tax applies to promotional items given away at events in South Dakota.

    Sales tax policies can change. Washington changed how trade show participation affects sales tax nexus in 2016.

    You need to read the fine print. In some states, including Washington, different rules apply depending on whether an event is open to the public or closed.

    Time and money matter. The number of days a business spends at a trade show is the determining factor for sales tax nexus in some states. Other states may look at the number of days and the amount of income or sales derived from the show. Threshold details differ in different states, and it’s easier to find this information for some states than for others.

    Trade shows can trigger other tax obligations. Sales tax is important, but it’s not the only tax in town. Generating business at a trade show or similar event could create an obligation to remit corporate income tax, business and occupation (B&O) tax, franchise tax, and more.

    While trade shows are a common nexus trigger, they aren’t the only catalyst for a business to create nexus. You can establish an obligation to collect and remit sales tax in another state simply by making a certain threshold of sales in the state. Learn more about sales tax nexus.

    Recent posts
    What makes filing a personal property tax return so complicated?
    Vermont taxes remotely accessed software … again
    Wichita Property Tax Conference
    2023 Tax Changes blue report with orange background

    Avalara Tax Changes 2024: Get your copy now

    Stay ahead of 2024’s biggest tax changes with this comprehensive, compelling report covering seven industries.

    Read the report

    Stay up to date

    Sign up for our free newsletter and stay up to date with the latest tax news.