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Virginia Clarifies Taxation of Nonprescription Drugs


 Bubble Bath Is Taxable in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Taxation has issued an information bulletin regarding the taxation of nonprescription drugs and proprietary medicine. The bulletin reminds that many nonprescription drugs are exempt from sales tax in Virginia.

Tax Exempt

Pursuant to relevant Virginia law*, nonprescription drugs that are exempt from sales tax include, but are not limited to:

  • Substances or mixtures of substances that contain medicines or drugs for which no prescription is required, “which are generally sold for internal or topical use in the cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in human beings.”
  • “’Proprietary medicines’ defined as any nonprescription drug sold to the general public under the brand name or trade name of the manufacturer…” so long as it “does not contain any controlled substance or marijuana.”

Examples of tax exempt nonprescription drugs include, but are not limited to:

  • Acne products;
  • Alcohol swabs;
  • Allergy relief products;
  • Antacids;
  • Bandages;
  • Camphor;
  • Dandruff and seborrhea preparations;
  • Epsom salts;
  • Fungicides;
  • Ibuprofen;
  • Laxatives;
  • Mineral oil;
  • Nasal drops;
  • Toothache relievers;
  • Wart removers; and
  • Witch hazel.

Not Tax Exempt

Items that are not tax exempt under applicable Virginia law include cosmetics, food products and supplements, vitamins and mineral concentrates, contraceptive devices and tests , and items that contain medical ingredients or nonprescription drugs, “where the inclusion of such substances serves as a secondary function to the intended use of the product.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Adhesive tape;
  • Bath crystals;
  • Cleaning creams and lotions;
  • Cuticle softener;
  • Diet aids;
  • Exfoliants;
  • Insect repellent;
  • Prophylactics;
  • Stimulants;
  • Thermometers; and
  • Weight control preparations.

*SB 317, Chapter 117, 1990 Acts of Assembly and HB 1665, Chapter 696, 1997 Acts of Assembly.

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.