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New York’s Sales Tax Exemption for Clothing, Footwear

  • Mar 14, 2014 | Gail Cole

 Would this harajuku girl's hat be exempt or taxable in New York?

Fashion is important—very important—to some. In March alone, Paris, Los Angeles and the whole country of Russia celebrate fashion with fashion weeks—events that take place year round, around the globe. On the streets of Japan, dressing has been elevated to an art form.

But when the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance delves into the world of fashion, it’s to talk sales tax and exemptions, not hemlines and hats.

True to form, the department’s tax bulletin ST-TB-122, issued March 10, 2014, addresses New York’s clothing and footwear exemption. It reminds that “clothing and footwear sold for less than $110 per item or pair and items used to make or repair this clothing are exempt from the New York State 4% sales and use tax.”

But, and it’s a big but, the exemption “does not apply to local sales and use taxes unless the county or city imposing the taxes elects to provide the exemption.”

And remember the 3/8% Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MDTC) tax? The exemption for clothing and footwear applies to MCTD, “but only within localities in the MCTD that have elected to provide the exemption.” In that respect, it functions like a local sales tax.

Cities and counties may elect to change their position toward the clothing and footwear exemption; “however, any change can take effect only on March 1 of each year.” In March 2013, for example, both Madison County and the City of Oneida began applying local sales tax to all clothing and footwear. A list of the nine New York counties providing the exemption this year was released in January.

The Department of Taxation and Finance has issued an updated list of exempt and taxable items.


Exempt items include, but are not limited to:

  • Aerobic clothing;
  • Antique clothing (for wear);
  • Arm warmers and leg warmers;
  • Formal clothing (purchased, not rented);
  • Fur clothing, and coats and hats;
  • Garters, garter belts, and girdles;
  • Pajamas and sleepwear;
  • Shawls and wraps;
  • Shirts and blouses; and
  • Shower caps, ski masks, scarves and suspenders.


Taxable items include, but are not limited to:

  • Antique clothing for collections, not wear;
  • Goggles (unless prescription);
  • Handbags and purses;
  • Headbands (except sweatbands), hair bows and hair clips;
  • Shin guards and padding, and shoulder pads (as for football, hockey); and
  • Wallets, watch bands and watches;

A social scientist could have a field day with this—the meaning behind which items qualify for the exemption and which items don’t. But business owners just need only be concerned with compliance. Businesses need to charge tax when it is due and to not charge tax it when it isn't. This could prove to be particularly challenging for remote sellers required to collect sales tax in New York.

How does your business handle sales tax? An automated sales tax solution gives you time to catch the latest fashion show.

photo credit: rc! via photopin cc

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.