Difference Between Wisconsin Sales Tax and Use Tax

  1. What is the difference between Wisconsin sales tax and use tax?
  2. Examples of use tax situations.

  1. What is the difference between Wisconsin sales tax and use tax?

    Sales Tax

    Sales tax is imposed on retailers who make taxable retail sales or provide taxable services in Wisconsin (unless an exemption applies). All sales are generally considered retail sales unless the buyer purchases the product or taxable services for the purposes of reselling it. In addition to the 5% state sales tax, the 0.5% county sales tax, 0.1% baseball stadium tax, or 0.5% football stadium sales tax may also apply.

    For more information see What is Taxable.

    Use Tax

    Use tax is the counterpart of sales tax. Use tax must be paid when Wisconsin sales tax is not charged and no exemption applies. In addition to the 5% state use tax, a 0.5% county use tax, 0.1% baseball stadium use tax, or 0.5% football stadium use tax may apply. If you properly paid sales tax in another state, the sales tax paid may be used to offset the Wisconsin use tax due.

    If Wisconsin did not have a use tax, persons could buy items in another state to avoid paying Wisconsin tax on such purchases.

    For more information see Use Tax.

  2. Examples of use tax situations.

    Common use tax situations include the following:

    • Property to be used in Wisconsin is purchased outside the state (e.g., Internet, mail order, catalog, etc.) and the property would have been subject to sales tax if purchased in Wisconsin.
    • Building materials are purchased by a nonresident contractor from a seller located in another state, the seller either does not charge sales tax or charges a tax at a rate less than the applicable Wisconsin rate (5.0%, 5.1%, 5.5%, or 5.6%), and the nonresident contractor uses the materials on a real property job in Wisconsin.
    • Property is purchased for resale (to sell to others) or for a nontaxable use and then is used by the purchaser in a taxable manner. Sales tax was not charged when purchasing the property.
    • Property is purchased outside Wisconsin without payment of the Wisconsin sales tax and is then brought into Wisconsin and given away free. Exception: If a retailer provides an item free of charge with the required purchase of another taxable product, the retailer may purchase the item provided free of charge without tax, for resale.
    • Property is purchased from a supplier outside Wisconsin without payment of the Wisconsin sales tax and the supplier ships the property to the purchaser's Wisconsin locations at the direction of the purchaser.
    • Property (other than advertising material and raw materials incorporated into printed materials) is purchased from a supplier outside Wisconsin without payment of the Wisconsin tax and the supplier ships the property to Wisconsin where it is stored by the purchaser until subsequently shipped outside Wisconsin.

      Note: Use tax does not apply to certain printing related purchases (see September 2013 Sales and Use Tax Report, Part V.B.)

    Credit for tax paid in another state:

    • If tax was properly paid in another state on the purchase of the property, the amount of Wisconsin use tax due may be offset by the tax paid in the other state.

    Additional information about credits for taxes paid in other states is provided in Wisconsin Tax Bulletin 157 (July 2008), beginning on page 28.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE
Customer Service Bureau
PO Box 8949
Madison, WI 53708-8949
Phone: (608) 266-2776
Fax: (608) 267-1030
Email Additional Questions

Last updated January 22, 2014