I'm visiting the US for vacations (specifically Manhattan) and wanted to buy a digital camera.

The guy at the shop told me that I can get back what I pay in NYC taxes for that camera if I present the ticket at the airport, when I'll be returning home. And that this is not applicable to clothes but it does to electronic stuff.

Is any of this true?

  • I am not certain, but we may also need to know your country of residence. – George Marian May 31 '11 at 17:31
  • Weird, I was told that no tax refunds are allowed when I purchased my iPad (NYC, last fall). Also check if you need to show some documents signed by the retailer. I learnt this the hard way on my UK trip at the airport. I gave away £86 just like that. :( – Apoorv May 31 '11 at 18:11
  • Thanks for the edit, refund was the word I was looking for. – Luciano May 31 '11 at 19:10
  • Related, but dealing with New York State sales tax, not NYC municipal sales tax: money.stackexchange.com/questions/1344/… – Chris W. Rea May 31 '11 at 19:41
  • 1
    New York has a sales & use tax. Use tax, while rarely enforced to the extreme, is particularly noxious. If you buy a disposable camera anywhere to take a picture in NY, the State wants use tax paid. – duffbeer703 Jun 2 '11 at 1:59

No, sales tax is not refundable to anyone. What the merchant described to you may sound familiar because that's what happens in countries that charge VAT. But he bluntly lied. Neither the state nor the city of New York refund the sales taxes.

  • +1 This sounds about right to me (see original comment above). The apple store told me the same thing. – Apoorv May 31 '11 at 19:51
  • I wonder how many people they take advantage of every day :( – Luciano Jun 1 '11 at 23:36
  • I don't know if you've noticed, but you won't find locals in these stores, only tourists. That might give you a clue as to the quality and reputation. – littleadv Jun 1 '11 at 23:38

Unless you bought the phone in a duty free shop, probably not, and even then you may have to pay duties when you return. TripAdvisor sums this up nicely:

Sales taxes are imposed on merchandise that you take with you from the shop. Unlike VAT schemes, there is no "export" price or system for a refund of the tax if you take the merchandise with you outside of the U.S. However, sales taxes will not be imposed on merchandise that you have shipped back to your home in another country, or in some cases, back to your home or hotel in another U.S. state.

In the United States, sales taxes are imposed at the state, county, and/or city level, so obtaining a refund could entail dealing with quite a few different jurisdictions. Unless you purchased the phone in a jurisdiction that doesn't levy sales tax (some states don't), you're required to pay it.

There are some states that offer international visitors an exemption from sales taxes at certain registered merchants, e.g. Texas and Louisiana, but unless you showed the merchant your documentation at the time of purchase and obtained a refund voucher then, I don't think you can claim a refund.

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