History of Sales Tax in the United States

HeinOnline, National Survey of State Laws, Tax Foundation Archive Publications, Taxation and Economic Reform in America
Benjamin Boron


As we approach the end of November, we face the largest shopping season in the United States. The weekend following Thanksgiving has two specific days entirely dedicated to retail shopping—"Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday." Depending on where you live in the U.S., you may be paying a substantially higher or lower sales tax than fellow shoppers in neighboring states.

What constitutes a retail sale and which goods are subject to tax varies across the nation. The rates for sales tax fluctuate by jurisdiction and range from less than 1% to more than 10%. Almost all jurisdictions provide tax exemptions or lowered tax rates for numerous categories of goods and services. Most jurisdictions exempt food sold in grocery stores, prescription medications, and many agricultural supplies…

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