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State Sales Tax Rules for Textbook Purchases


It has been years since I found myself in a bookstore feeling the pain of the high cost of college textbooks. Hasn't every student at one time or another had to fork over big bucks for a new version of a textbook that had limited new material? It was like a game every semester waiting to see if we could capitalize on used textbooks.

In the study, Fixing the Broken Textbook Market, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group uncovered some not-surprising attitudes about the high cost of textbooks, "65% of students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive." Ouch!

More than half of the students surveyed in the study indicated the high cost of text books had a direct impact on the classes they choose to enroll in. State governments are aware of this with Sen. Adam Morfeld, Lincoln, NE being one example of a politician pushing for sales tax exemptions on textbooks.

The answer, however, is not straightforward.

A sales tax break on textbooks for students might put money back in students pockets, but it takes money out of the state's general fund--some of which directly funds public universities and colleges. As Delegate Jay Walker, D- Prince George’s County in Maryland points out, "Which is more important: Keeping tuition frozen or taking taxes off of textbooks?"

Regardless of the political impact of sales tax rules and regulations for academic textbooks, if you're a student who happens to be located in a tax-exempt textbook state, you can take advantage of this tax break. However, you'll want to read the fine print before you rush out to the nearest bookstore (online or off). In some cases, sales tax exemptions are only honored when textbooks are purchased from school affiliated bookstores. A textbook purchased on Amazon or eBay, for example, might not quality.

State by State Review

We've put together a state-by-state look at textbook sales tax exemptions. In most cases, "textbooks" applies to any materials required for a course at a qualifying school. This includes workbooks and other print materials and may be extended to magazines and newspapers.

A general requirement all states offering sales tax exemptions on textbooks is that the purchaser must be a registered student at the university or college where the textbook is purchased. Be prepared to provide a valid college identification during checkout.

 

State Textbook Sales Tax Policy
Alabama Sales of textbooks in Alabama are taxable unless sold by an elementary or secondary (public or state owned and operated) and the net proceeds "are used solely for the benefit of the elementary or secondary school."
Alaska The state of Alaska does not collect sales tax on any purchases.
Arizona Sales of textbooks in Arizona are tax exempt when required for a course at any state university or community college.
Arkansas Sales of textbooks in Arkansas are taxable regardless of whether they are purchased from an independent or school affiliated bookstore.
California Sales of textbooks in California are taxable. According to the California BOE representative, "Generally speaking, all tangible goods are subject to sales tax in the state of California and this includes textbooks."
Colorado Sales of textbooks in Colorado are taxable.
Connecticut Sales of textbooks in Connecticut are tax exempt for full-time and part-time students enrolled at institutions of higher education (public and private as authorized by the state). This applies to both used and new materials.
Delaware The state of Delaware does not collect sales tax on any purchases.
Florida Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales tax when required or recommended for use in a course offered by public and private postsecondary educational institution authorized.
Georgia Sales of textbooks are taxable in Georgia.
Hawaii Sales of textbooks sold by universities and colleges in Hawaii are exempt from sales tax. All other textbook sales are taxable.
Idaho Sales of textbooks by schools in Idaho are taxable. When asked about possible exemptions to this policy, a representative of the Idaho State Tax Commission told us, "I haven't heard anything different."
Illinois Sales of textbooks are taxable in Illinois.
Indiana Sales of textbook sales to students in grades K-12 attending parochial, private, or public schools are tax exempt. All other sales of textbooks are taxable.
Iowa Sales of textbooks for courses at nonprofit institutions of higher learning in Iowa are exempt from sales tax.
Kansas Textbook rentals to nonsectarian, K-12 students in Kansas are exempt from sales tax. All sales of textbooks are taxable.
Kentucky Sales of textbooks by bookstores affiliated with a college or university are exempt from sales tax.
Louisiana Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales tax when sold by private elementary or secondary schools and the revenues from the sales are used exclusively to support the school. In all other cases, textbook sales are taxable.
Maine Sales of textbooks are taxable in Maine.
Maryland Sales of textbooks are taxable in Maryland.
Massachusetts Sales of textbooks required for educational courses in Massachusetts are exempt from sales tax.
Michigan Sales of textbooks to K-12 students in Michigan are exempt from sales tax.
Minnesota Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales tax when required for classes in public or private schools, colleges, universities, or business and trade schools.
Mississippi Sales of textbooks to students enrolled in colleges or universities in Mississippi are tax exempt.
Missouri Sales of textbooks in Missouri are exempt from sales tax when purchased by an enrolled student at a "public or private university, college or other postsecondary institution of higher learning."
Montana The state of Montana does not collect sales tax on any purchases.
Nebraska Sales of textbooks are taxable in Nebraska unless the sale is made by K-12 school operated stores.
Nevada Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales and local school support taxes when sold within the Nevada System of High Education. Textbooks sold within the Nevada Community College system are exempt from local school support tax, but not exempt from sales tax.
New Hampshire The state of New Hampshire does not collect sales tax on any purchases.
New Jersey Sales of textbooks in New Jersey are exempt from sales tax when the books are required by the course.
New Mexico Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales tax in New Mexico when sold at a bookstore run by the college or university and located on campus. In all other cases, sales of textbooks are taxable.
New York Sales of textbooks purchased by college students in New York are tax exempt. All other textbook purchases are taxable.
North Carolina Sales of textbooks in North Carolina are taxable.
North Dakota Sales of textbooks to students in
North Dakota at both public and private colleges and universities are tax exempt.
Ohio Sales of textbooks are taxable in Ohio.
Oklahoma Sales of textbooks are taxable in Oklahoma.
Oregon The state of Oregon does not collect sales tax on any purchases.
Pennsylvania Sales of textbooks by bookstores authorized by the college or university to sell on their behalf are exempt from sales tax.
Rhode Island Sales of textbooks are taxable unless sold by colleges or universities. Also, all used textbooks are exempt from sales tax.
South Carolina Sales of textbooks purchased for use in primary and secondary classes are exempt from sales tax in South Carolina.
South Dakota Sales of textbooks are taxable in South Dakota.
Tennessee Sales of textbooks in Tennessee are exempt from sales tax.
Texas Sales of textbooks are taxable in Texas.
Utah Sales of textbooks in Utah are exempt from sales tax when required by a course and sold at stores run by nonprofit institutions and certain off-campus stores.
Vermont Sales of textbooks sold by on-campus bookstores in Vermont are exempt from sales tax. All other textbook sales are taxable.
Virginia  Sales of textbooks are exempt from sales tax in Virginia.
Washington Sales of textbooks are taxable in Washington state.
West Virginia Sales of textbooks required for use in a course at a qualifying institution of education are exempt from sales tax in West Virginia.
Wisconsin Sales of textbooks by elementary and secondary schools are exempt from sales tax in Wisconsin. All other textbook and course material sales are taxable.
Wyoming Sales of textbooks by K-12 schools for fundraising purposes in Wyoming are tax exempt. All other textbook and course material sales are taxable.

Sales Tax Holidays

If you've found your state doesn't extend sales tax exemption to textbooks, there is still hope! Many states also offer a limited "sales tax holiday" window where textbooks (along with other back-to-school items) are sold tax free. Take a look at our list of state sales tax holidays to see if you are in luck.


Avalara Author
Ryan O'Donnell
Avalara Author Ryan O'Donnell