Sales and Use Tax

All retail sales of tangible personal property are subject to state and local sales tax, unless specifically exempted by statute.  When the tax is collected at the time of sale, we refer to "sales tax".

Additionally, all purchases "consumed" (i.e. used) in the operation of an organization are subject to state and local use tax, unless specifically exempted by statute.  When the tax is paid after the sale, upon consumption, we use the term "use tax".

The Office of the Controller is responsible for reporting and remitting all sales and use tax to the State of Georgia on a monthly basis.

The Georgia Sales and Use Tax Regulations specifically exempt private colleges and universities from paying sales and use tax for items such as books and instructional supplies purchased for libraries and teachers, athletic equipment and supplies, laboratory equipment, maintenance supplies, electricity, and office supplies.  Sales of other types of items may not be exempt.

Purchases Made in Georgia

Most purchases made by Emory in the state of Georgia are exempt from sales and use tax.  For the transaction to be exempt, the property must be for use within the confines of our exempt purposes; primarily education and research. 

The Georgia Department of Revenue maintains that the purchase of food and beverages, including catering, (refreshments during a business meeting, or lunch during a conference, for example) does not further a university's exempt mission, even though the meeting or conference itself does so.  The purchase of flowers, as well, is considered outside of the exemption, although it may foster goodwill or facilitate fundraising.  As such, Emory will pay sales tax on all purchases of these (and similar) items.

The University is also not exempt from the Occupancy (Room) Tax levied by hotels, motels and inns.

Goods and services purchased from out-of-state vendors for delivery and use in Georgia are generally not subject to sales or use tax when they are used in the conduct of the University's exempt framework.   Each states’ rules are different and a state specific exemption form may need to be provided

Purchases made by individuals using their personal funds for which they expect to receive reimbursement are discouraged.  If an employee purchases an item with individual funds, sales tax must be paid although the item is for Emory’s exempt use.  When the employee is reimbursed for this expense, the University indirectly pays the sales tax associated with the transaction.  This increases the cost to the University by 7% (8.9% if the purchase was made within the City of Atlanta).

Georgia Exemption Documentation

If a seller, or vendor, does not have the information on file, we may be asked to provide proof of the University's exempt status.  The most recent Letter of Authorization from the Department of Revenue can be obtained from the Emory Finance Web.

Although the authorization states that a sales tax registration number is not required, some vendors may request a number to activate the exemption based on software requirements.  If so, a copy of the Certificate of Registration is also available at the web site.

In some instances, a vendor will request that we complete an exemption form unique to that retailer.  If you need any assistance with one of these forms, please contact Susan Clark, Sr. Director of Tax.

Agency Affiliates

Many of our agency affiliates use our resources for payment of bills and invoices through Payment Services using the direct bill option.  Most of these affiliates are not exempt from sales and use tax.

When a charge is made via direct bill (by Emory's printing or media services, for example) sales tax is not included.  When this charge is on behalf of a taxable affiliate, the amount is "grossed up" to calculate the use tax; what would have been sales tax had it been collected at the time of the transaction.  The use tax is remitted to the Department of Revenue and charged to the affiliate on a monthly basis.

Purchases Made in Other States

Emory has been approved for exemption from sales tax in a number of other states.  These exemption certificates (and/or other requirements) are available at Emory Finance Web.

Each state has varying laws regarding what items they exempt from the imposition of state taxes.  Where a state tax exemption exists, it generally covers the purchase of tangible personal property used for University business. 

If you will be traveling and intend to make purchases in a state that is not included in the list at the web site, contact the Office of the Controller to determine if an exemption may be obtained.  Note that some states do not exempt non-profit organizations from any of the state taxes imposed.

Goods Purchased for Resale

Although this would rarely be an issue for Emory, goods purchased for resale can be exempt from sales tax at the time of purchase.  In order to take advantage of this exemption, the vendor will request Form ST-5, Certificate of Exemption for Purchaser or Dealer, and sales tax must be collected at the time of the retail sale.

Sales Made by the University

Taxable property and taxable services sold by the University are subject to sales tax (unless the purchaser is exempt from sales tax).  This means that Emory departments must charge sales tax on taxable transactions.

With the exception of sales to Federal, state, or local government agencies, if the purchaser is exempt from Georgia sales and use tax, you must obtain a copy of its Letter of Authorization (similar to Emory's) in advance.  You will need to maintain the exemption certificate in your records, should there be a question concerning the transactions by the Department of Revenue. 

Many people misunderstand that being a tax-exempt organization based on the Internal Revenue Service determination does not imply exemption from state and local sales tax.  Only the Georgia Department of Revenue Letter of Authorization is evidence of exemption from sales tax. 

Georgia sales tax generally does not have to be collected on goods shipped directly to the purchaser outside of the state.  Documentation should be kept for support of an interstate shipment.

If a sale is made within Georgia but outside of DeKalb County, the tax rate applicable to the county where delivery will be made must be used.  You can find the current rates at the Georgia Department of Revenue Sales Tax web site.

Goods delivered within the City of Atlanta are also subject to the additional 1.9% Municipal Option sales tax. 

Remember that rates can change within each county, so always check the site to ensure you are using the appropriate percentage.  When a change is voted into law, it will be effective on a calendar quarter basis.

Examples of sales Emory encounters include the following:

  • Textbooks, CDs and other publications
  • Emory mementos such as t-shirts and coffee mugs
  • Copying, printing, and other media services
  • Surplus property
  • Items sold at auction
  • Food and beverages
  • Museum sales
  • Conference center and hotel charges paid for by an individual

The tax collected should be credited to the department's Accrued Sales Tax liability account.

If a department sells items while physically present in another state (example: selling continuing education material at a medical convention), the department should contact the Controller's office prior to the event to determine whether the sales will be subject to sales tax. If a sales tax liability is incurred, departments should work with the Controller's office to ensure that all accounting and reporting requirements are met.