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The Pennsylvania Sales Tax on Air

  • Jun 29, 2016 | Laura McCamy

No one can tax the air, right? Wrong. While the air all around us is free (no tax on breathing -- yet), Pennsylvania has found a way to add sales tax to a substance we think of as freely available to all. The Pennsylvania sales tax on air is all about compression.

The Pennsylvania sales tax on air applies only to compressed air and then only to some compressed air.

If you work in a machine shop and you use a compressed air machine, that compressed air is not subject to Pennsylvania sales tax. But when you drive your car into the gas station and use the compressed air machine to fill your tires, the station has to add Pennsylvania sales tax on top of the cost of that air. This sounds like a joke but it’s actually a serious matter, enshrined in the PA sales tax code.

If Sue leaves Philadelphia at 3 pm heading east toward New Jersey and she runs over a piece of glass on Passyunk Avenue, will she be able to make it to Camden, New Jersey, before she notices she has a flat tire? There’s no sales tax on compressed air in New Jersey.

Next exercise: Compare the cost of a new tire to the 6 percent tax Sue would have paid if she had put air in her tires in Philly.

Moral of the story: Don’t let the Pennsylvania sales tax on air keep you from good tire hygiene. And, if you live in New Jersey, maybe put some air in your tires before you cross the border into Pennsylvania.

If an item is for sale, somewhere, somehow, at least one of the states has found a way to add sales tax to it. So take a deep breath (tax-free) and don’t try to make sense of all the United States’ crazy sales tax rules.

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
Laura McCamy
Avalara Author Laura McCamy