Monday, October 18, 2010


Catching Up at PaneraNewspapers are treated a little like magazines in many states.  If they're sold by subscription, they may be exempt.  However, they're not always taxed in the same way. 

In fact, in most states, newspapers are simply exempt from sales and use tax.  Whether sold over the counter, from a newsstand, or by subscription, they're usually exempt.  The reason that I've heard most often for this state of affairs is that imposing sales tax on newspapers would somehow interfere with freedom of the press.

My own opinion is that, if you're the hapless politician who decides that imposing a sales tax on newspapers is a good idea, you should probably not count on getting any more endorsements or favorable coverage from your local print media.  If you know what I mean. 

But there are complications.  There are states where newspapers are taxable.  And there are some significant questions that don't come up when you're talking about magazines.  While magazines AND newspapers are sold from stores and newsstands, what about the sales made from folks just standing on the street hawking papers; or sales from vending machines?  And do they tax the sales of newspapers by carriers ... you know, the paper boy?  These are all situations that are up for grabs in states where sales tax is imposed on newspapers.

You, the consumer, will rarely even notice that there's a tax on newspapers.  This will be one situation where the tax will usually be absorbed, even if illegally. Which is probably why the publishers would really be upset if it came up as a way of balancing the state's budget.

But then, who reads newspapers anymore?  (I kid).

The Sales Tax Guy

See the disclaimer - this is for education only.  Research these issues thoroughly before making decisions.  Remember: there are details we haven't discussed, and every state is different.  Here's more information

Get these articles in your inbox - subscribe at

Don't forget our upcoming seminars and webinars.


Anonymous said...

I have personally paid sales tax on newspapers in MD, WV, VA, NC, FL, AL, AZ, and CA. I know for a fact that CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, and SC do not tax newspapers. Unsure about other states.

Kim O'Brien said...

The reasoning behind the no newspaper sales tax is the English Stamp act that required a tax on newspapers in colonial days. If you didn't have the stamp on your newspaper than you couldn't sell it if the Kings tax collectors didn't like what you had to say then you couldn't get stamps.