The 10 Basics Every District of Columbia Business Should Know About Sales Tax

What is the Sales Tax Rate in the District of Columbia?

DC imposes a 5.75% sales tax on most taxable goods and services. Prepared foods and liquor are taxed at a rate of 10%.

What is Sales Tax in the District of Columbia?

Sales tax in DC include physical property and certain services. Exemptions from sales tax include groceries, prescription and non-prescription drugs, and residential utility services.

Are All Goods and Services Taxable?


How Do I Know What’s Taxable and What’s Not?

The following link can help you determine what is taxable and what isn’t in DC:  Taxable and Non-Taxable Services

Who Pays Sales Tax?

Consumers pay sales tax.  Merchants do not pay sales tax out of their own pockets.  It’s commonly referred to as a  pass through tax.

What Am I Responsible For?

You are required to collect sales tax, hold it secure and send it to the State on-time and in-full.

When Is My Sales Tax Payment Due in the District of Columbia?

DC Retail Sales Tax Return is due the 20th day of the month following the end of the taxpayer’s filing period. Filing frequency is assigned by the state. Click here for a list of due dates.

How Do I Know How Much Sales Tax to Charge? 

Sales tax rates in DC vary based on goods and services provided. Click here for a guide to rates.  The final and definitive answer is always the sales tax rate posted on the Department of Revenue website.  Rates posted on the web are often not up-to-date and incorrect. It’s always the merchant’s responsibility to charge the correct sales tax rate.

Who Gets the Sales Tax Money?

In DC all sales tax is paid directly to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue.

How Do I Manage Tax Exempt Sales?

Tax exempt organizations such as schools and religious organizations are often exempt from sales tax. They are required to give you copy of their “TAX EXEMPT CERTIFICATE” at the time of the sale and you are required to keep this certificate on file. Failing to do so may result in you paying the sales tax out of your own pocket if you have a sales tax audit.

What if I Forget to Pay or Spend the Money and Can’t Pay?

DC  has severe penalties for missing tax payments. You can find the penalties for late payments here. If sales tax goes unpaid, states will seize the assets of the business or owner and auction them off to pay the debt.  In extreme cases owners will be prosecuted and sent to jail. Even if the business closes, sales tax is a personal liability that will follow the owner until paid.

DC Sales and Use TAX HELP:

DC Office of Tax and Revenue

(202) 727-4829