How to get a Certificate of Resale in Tennessee

Last Updated on

Quick Reference

When a business purchases inventory to resell, they can do so without paying sales tax.  In order to do so, the retailer will need to provide a Tennessee Certificate of Resale to their vendor. 

Learn more about what a resale certificate is, how to get one, and more.

What is a Certificate of Resale?

When retailers purchase products to resell, they often don’t pay sales tax to the supplier on the purchase. The sales tax will still be paid, but instead of the retailer paying sales tax, the retailer charges sales tax to their customer on the final value of the merchandise. The collected sales tax is then sent by the retailer to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

For example, when a pet store purchases dog toys from their supplier to sell in the store, the pet store owner won’t typically have to pay sales tax to their supplier. When a customer (or end-user) purchases the dog toy, the retailer will charge sales tax to the customer based on the full price of the toy. The retailer will collect the sales tax from all their transactions and periodically (typically at the end of the month) send the sales tax to the state.

The purpose of the certificate is to provide evidence of why sales tax was not collected on a transaction. Similar names for a resale certificate include reseller number, seller’s permit, exemption certificate, wholesale license, or reseller’s license. In order for the supplier to allow the tax-exempt purchase, the seller needs proof the buyer intends to resell the product by providing a valid resale certificate.

The sales tax exemption is only intended to be used for inventory that will be resold and not intended for the tax-free purchase of items used in normal business operations such as paper, pens, etc.

Note that the Certificate of Resale is different from a business license. Learn more about starting a business in Tennessee.

Getting Started

Before a business starts selling products or providing taxable services, they must first get a Tennessee Sales Tax Permit from the Tennessee Department of Revenue. The Sales Tax Permit is sometimes referred to as a seller’s permit, sales tax number, or sales tax license.

Is a resale certificate the same as a sales tax ID?

The Sales Tax Permit and Resale Certificate are commonly thought of as the same thing, but they are actually two separate documents. The Sales Tax Permit allows a business to sell and collect sales tax from taxable products and services in the state, while the Resale Certificate allows the retailer to make tax-exempt purchases for products they intend to resell.

Related: How to register for a Tennessee Sales Tax Permit

After registering, businesses that showed they make taxable sales will be automatically issued a Tennessee Sales and Use Tax Certificate of Resale. The certificate is saved for download in the businesses’ Tennessee Taxpayer Access Point (TNTAP) account.

Does a Tennessee Resale Certificate Expire?

Tennessee Resale Certificates don’t expire provided the certificate was registered as a blanket certificate and make at least one purchase with the seller every 12 consecutive months. 

Are sellers required to accept resale certificates?

Sellers are not required to accept resale certificates, however, most do.  If the vendor doesn’t accept the certificate, the buyer will have to pay sales tax on the merchandise being purchased.  In most cases, they will be able to get a credit for the sales taxes paid later on their sales tax filing. 

What steps should a business take to accept a resale certificate?

When a business is presented with a resale certificate, the burden of proof is on the seller to verify that the buyer’s information is correct and to keep these records.  Failing to verify this information may put the liability of paying Tennessee sales taxes on the seller.

Before accepting a resale certificate, a seller should:

  • Review the resale certificate to make sure it is completely filled out. 
  • Verify the purchaser’s Tennessee Sales and Use Tax Certificate is valid by visiting the Tennessee Taxpayer Access Point and select “Look Up Information”
  • Sellers are also responsible for examining the certificate and evaluating whether the goods sold are reasonably consistent with the purchaser’s line of business.  For example, if the buyer’s business is a car dealership, but they want to purchase office supplies tax-free, the seller should investigate further.  
  • Keep a file of resale certificates. 

Subscribe Now to the 60-day Startup Challenge!

Subscribe Now to the 60-day Startup Challenge!