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Sales Tax Secrets: Taxing Formality

  • Apr 18, 2013 | Christina Lengyel

Recently, I bought a bridesmaid’s dress. I’m not a huge fan of shopping, and I’m even less a fan of being observed, advised, and measured as I do so. I tried to make the experience a quick one. I tried on three, chose the best according to my boyfriend and the sales lady, and made my way to the counter without even looking at the price tag. As far as formalwear is concerned, I only have room for three things in my brain. In this case, those things were cocktail length, Victorian lilac, and chiffon. Sales tax wasn’t even a runner up for the list. In fact, the list itself barely survived the crowding of, “Oh my god, I’m old,” and “Why did I bring my boyfriend into a bridal shop?”

As a Pennsylvania resident, I wasn’t thinking when I saw sales tax on the receipt after paying for the cocktail length, Victorian lilac, chiffon dress. Usually, clothes aren’t taxed here. Formalwear, on the other hand, is taxed. Accessories, formal or informal, are taxed as well. The state offers a list of examples for retailers, including fur, tiaras, toupees, and the ever so popular opera cape. I guess it’s assumed if you’ve got the cash for ballet tickets, added flare, or extra hair, then you’ve got the cash to pay sales tax. Had I known this in high school, I might have directed my mom to Delaware when we went shopping for Homecoming.

If your business sells clothing in Pennsylvania, it’s important to know what is in fashion for sales tax. Remember, the consumer hurrying out the door may only be thinking “Cocktail length. Victorian lilac. Chiffon.” More likely they’re thinking, “How dare she say I’m two sizes bigger than I thought!” or “I can’t believe I just spent half my paycheck on someone else’s wedding.” They almost definitely will not be the ones to point out that you aren’t collecting appropriate sales tax.

Once you’re sure you’ve got your sales tax squared away in the State of Independence, you can enter your own state of relaxation, buy a new derby hat, and catch up on your opera. Maybe the fancy ladies there will give you tips on what colors will overtake Victorian lilac in sales next season.

photo credit: sleepyjeanie 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.
Avalara Author
Christina Lengyel
Avalara Author Christina Lengyel
Christina Lengyel is a writer by trade and has found herself in taxes by way of research. As an analyst, she has tracked down thousands of products by UPC in order to determine when and where they are taxed.