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Most businesses starting in Tennessee that are selling a product or offering certain services will need to register for a sales tax permit.  This is commonly referred to as a seller’s permit, sales tax license, sales tax number or sales tax registration.   

Check out the rest of this guide to find out who needs a sales tax permit, what products and services are taxable, how to register for a permit and reporting requirements.

Who needs a sales tax permit in Tennessee?

A business must register for a sales tax permit in Tennessee when:

  • A business has “nexus” (significant presence in the state) such as a retail store, office or warehouse where products are produced, stored and/or delivered
  • Selling taxable products and services annually in Tennessee.
  • Employees (including sales representatives or agents) are working in Tennessee
  • An online business located in Tennessee is selling taxable products to Tennessee residents
  • An out-of-state business selling over $500,000 of taxable products and services to Tennessee residents

Tangible personal property is defined at items that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched. Pre-written computer software is also considered as well.

What products and services are taxable in Tennessee?

Physical products

There are a few exceptions, but almost all physical products are taxable when sold at retail in Tennessee.  Common examples include:

  • General merchandise like furniture, appliances, and clothing
  • Titled or registered items like vehicles

Digital Products

Digital products are taxable in Tennessee.

Services

Most services aren’t taxable in Tennessee, however there are a few exceptions, some of which include:

  • Short-term lodging
  • Providing repair to tangible personal property or computer software
  • Laundering or cleaning of any tangible personal property
  • Installation of computer software

A full list of taxable services in Tennessee is available from the Department of Revenue (TNDOR).

How to register for a sales tax permit in Tennessee

A sales tax permit can be obtained by registering through the Tennessee Taxpayer Access Point (TNTAP) or by mailing in the Application for Registration.

Information needed to register includes:

  • Projected annual sales
  • Date business began
  • Fiscal year end date
  • Physical and mailing address
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). May not be required if the business is a sole proprietorship with no employees
  • Type of business entity (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, LLC)
  • Description of what products or services are being sold
  • Name, address, SSN, phone number and title of owners/officers/members

How much does a sales tax permit cost in Tennessee?

There is no cost for a sales tax permit in Tennessee.

How long does it take to get a Tennessee sales tax permit?

Expect 1-2 business days to receive a sales tax permit when registering online or up to 2 weeks when applying by mail.

After registering, the Department of Revenue will send a Certificate of Registration that must be displayed at your business location.

Do you have to renew your Tennessee sales tax permit?

The sales tax permit is a one-time registration and no renewals are needed.  Be mindful that if any information about the business changes such as the mailing address, additional locations or change in ownership, those changes need to be updated with the Department of Revenue.

Sales tax reporting

How is sales tax collected?

When a business makes a sale of a taxable product or service, the business charges the appropriate sales tax rate to the customer.  This tax is collected by the business who then sends it to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

How much sales tax is charged?

The sales tax rate that is charged varies depending on the address of the business if the purchase is made in the store.  When shipping in-state, the sales tax is based on the address of the purchaser.

In addition to the statewide tax, there are additional local option taxes that may be added by city and/or county governments.  To find sales tax rates, see sales tax rates by address from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

 When are Tennessee sales tax returns due?

The Department of Revenue will determine a filing frequency based on the expected volume of sales, which will be monthly, quarterly or annually. 

Filings are due the 20th day of the month following the reporting period, unless the 20th falls on a weekend or federal holiday, in which case would move to the next business day.

Even if the business had no sales during the reporting period, a filing is still required indicating no sales occurred.

Sales tax on purchases for resale

A business is able to purchase items to resell without paying state sales tax.  The tax liability is passed from the wholesaler or distributor to the retailer who will then charge sales tax to the end user of the item. 

Wholesalers and distributors will require a sales tax number and a completed Tennessee Certificate of Resale to document the items being purchased are for resale. 

Businesses that sell less than $4,800 in taxable products or provide less than $1,200 in taxable services annually are not able to get a resale certificate.  Instead, these businesses will pay sales taxes to their suppliers.

Questions

If you have questions about the sales tax permit, the Tennessee Department of Revenue has a Sales & Use Tax Guide or they can be contacted by calling 800-342-1003. 

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