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College Textbooks May Be Exempt from New York Sales Tax


 Exempt in New York (when certain conditions are met).

It’s August, which means a new school year is upon us. Tuition and textbooks fill the mind. And the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is alerting students and sellers of textbooks that in New York, college students may purchase certain textbooks free from New York state and local sales and use taxes.

In order for the exemption to apply, the following conditions must be met:

  • The purchaser must be an enrolled student at an institution of higher education.
  • The purchased textbook(s) must be for use in a course.
  • The textbook must be required or recommended (by the instructor or the institution) for the student’s course.
  • The student must provide a valid student identification card or other evidence of enrollment at the time of purchase.

In order to make an exempt sale, sellers must receive a properly completed Form ST-121.4 Textbook Exemption Certificate from the purchasing student. Alternatively, sellers may reference a list of eligible textbooks from an institution of higher learning or a course instructor. Sellers may not make exempt sales unless one of these conditions is met. Sellers must also confirm that the purchasing student has a valid student ID.

Additional supplies such as notebooks or not-recommended or required books do not qualify for an exemption from New York sales tax.

Keep good records

As with all exemptions, proper recordkeeping is essential. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance reminds that sellers must keep one of the following to substantiate an exempt sale:

  • A copy of the required or recommended list of textbooks furnished by the course instructor or institution of higher education;
  • A copy of the instructor’s or institution’s list furnished by the student; or
  • A properly completed exemption certificate.

Sellers must retain the purchasing student’s ID information with the sales records for remote sales (mail or internet sales).

Be honest

Misuse of this exemption certificate is not permitted and may invoke criminal prosecution and penalties. Additional information is available in Tax Bulletin ST-126.

Sales tax automation software simplifies exemption certificate management. Learn more.

photo credit: flickr./com/photos/amanda_munoz 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.