Sales Tax Calculator

Sales Tax: An Overview

What is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a consumption tax imposed by the government on the sale of goods and services. It is typically calculated as a percentage of the purchase price and collected by the retailer. Sales tax is generally paid by the consumer at the point of purchase and is a primary source of revenue for many governments.

Why Does Sales Tax Exist?

Sales tax exists to generate revenue for governments to fund essential services, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. It is a relatively simple and efficient way to collect tax, as the burden of collection is placed on businesses rather than individuals. Sales tax is also considered a regressive tax, meaning it disproportionately affects low-income earners, who tend to spend a larger portion of their income on consumption.

Examples of Calculating Sales Tax in the United States

In the United States, sales tax rates vary by state and sometimes by city or county. Some states, like Delaware, have no sales tax at all, while others, like California, have rates as high as 7.25%. Here are a few examples of how to calculate sales tax in the United States:

Example 1: In New York City, the combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.875%. If you were to purchase an item for $100, the sales tax would be calculated as follows: $100 x 0.08875 = $8.88. Your total cost, including sales tax, would be $108.88.

Example 2: In Chicago, Illinois, the combined state and local sales tax rate is 10.25%. If you were to purchase an item for $50, the sales tax would be calculated as follows: $50 x 0.1025 = $5.13. Your total cost, including sales tax, would be $55.13.

Example 3: In Portland, Oregon, there is no state or local sales tax. If you were to purchase an item for $200, your total cost would remain $200, with no additional sales tax applied.

A Brief History of Sales Tax

Sales taxes have been used for centuries to generate revenue for governments. The concept of a sales tax dates back to ancient Egypt, where taxes were imposed on the sale of goods, including livestock and oil. In ancient Rome, sales tax was used to fund the military and build infrastructure, like roads and bridges.

In the United States, sales tax was first introduced during the Great Depression as a way to generate revenue when income and property taxes were insufficient. The first state to implement a sales tax was Mississippi in 1930, followed by many other states over the next few years. Today, sales tax is a common form of taxation in most countries worldwide.

How to Deduct Sales Tax

In the United States, taxpayers have the option to deduct either their state and local income taxes or their state and local sales taxes when filing their federal income tax return. This deduction can only be taken if the taxpayer itemizes their deductions rather than taking the standard deduction. To claim the sales tax deduction, taxpayers must keep records of their purchases and the sales tax paid throughout the year or use the IRS Sales Tax Deduction Calculator to estimate their deduction based on their income, state, and local sales tax rates.

It's important to note that the sales tax deduction may not be beneficial for everyone. Taxpayers should weigh the benefits of deducting sales tax against the benefits of deducting state and local income taxes, as well as consider the impact of the standard deduction.

Value-Added Tax (VAT) and Goods and Services Tax (GST)

A value-added tax (VAT) is a consumption tax imposed on goods and services at each stage of production, from manufacturing to sale. Unlike sales tax, which is only collected at the point of sale, VAT is collected at multiple points along the supply chain. Businesses are required to charge VAT on their products or services and remit the collected tax to the government, minus any VAT paid on their inputs. This system ensures that tax is only paid on the value added at each stage, preventing double taxation.

A goods and services tax (GST) is similar to a VAT but is typically implemented as a single tax rate applied to all goods and services. GST is used in countries like Canada, Australia, and India to simplify their tax systems and increase efficiency. Both VAT and GST are considered more efficient than sales tax, as they eliminate the cascading effect of taxes and prevent tax evasion.


Sales tax is an essential source of revenue for many governments, funding critical services and infrastructure. Understanding how sales tax works, how it's calculated, and its history can help individuals and businesses navigate the tax landscape. As consumption taxes continue to evolve, it's important to stay informed about changes in sales tax, VAT, and GST to ensure compliance and make informed financial decisions.

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