Skip to main content

Authors, How Do You Collect Sales Tax at Book Fairs?

There’s a story in this morning’s link post about a sales tax exemption, and it got me wondering how authors handled sals tax at book fairs.

It seems Rhode Island has a clause in its tax code whereby creators don’t have to collect state sales tax when they sell their creations at a book festival or other event. This is a great idea, but unfortunately regulators have decided that non-fiction authors don’t count as creators (which is why the ACLU is suing).

Should a decision as to whether a Rhode Island author is entitled to a sales tax exemption depend on whether she has written a fictional murder mystery as opposed to an exhaustive history of the state? That is the question at the crux of a federal lawsuit the ACLU of RI filed today, challenging the state Division of Taxation’s position that a special sales tax exemption for Rhode Island authors applies only to works of fiction, and not to non-fiction, because non-fiction is not “creative and original.” The lawsuit, filed by ACLU of RI cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger, argues that making such a distinction on the content of the work violates the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

This is the first time I have heard of this particular type of tax exemption, and it made me curious enough that I spent several hours today looking for similar exemptions.

Either Rhode Island is the only state with this particular kind of exception to its sales tax laws, or it is the only one to get a lot of attention, because I could not find mention of other state’s having similar exemptions.

Since that information is not readily available, I thought it would be fun to throw this to the floor, and ask authors about their experiences with collecting sales tax.

How do you handle sales tax at book festivals? Do you just skip it? (I’ve paid cash for a book, and was not bothered about tax, so I have to wonder if the sales tax was even remitted.)

image by ActuaLitté via Flickr

Similar Articles


Denise Gaskins May 13, 2019 um 5:16 pm

I round the book’s price to the nearest whole dollar, or sometimes to the nearest multiple of five. The sign on my table says "X% sales tax included in price." (Whatever is fitting for that area of the state.) Then later I do the calculations to figure out how much of what I took in I have to send to the state.

In very small venues, it may not matter, but the Dept. of Revenue posts an ongoing threat to send agents around the larger fairs to make sure vendors really are collecting tax. I’m not taking a chance on whatever monster fine they would charge.

Jeffrey T. Spaulding May 13, 2019 um 7:19 pm

My home state of Pennsylvania knows of Peschel Press (I have a tax number from them), and I file my sales taxes with them twice a year. Maryland wants out-of-staters to file only if they have a presence in their state (at least, if I read their online documentation correctly).

New Jersey is known for their rapacious and grasping tax agents. The Chillerfest web site, at the bottom of the home page, delivers one of many warning about them.

Write a Comment