The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Local Option Sales Tax

Reference Number: MTAS-534
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: October 15, 2015
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A municipality may levy a local sales tax, but the combined rate of the county’s levy and that of the municipality may not exceed 2.75 percent. A county’s levy supersedes the municipality’s levy. Therefore, if the county levy is 2.75 percent, a municipality in that county may not levy a local sales tax. If the county levy is 2.25 percent, a municipality could levy an additional 0.5 percent. Regardless of the local levy amount, it must be approved by a majority vote in a referendum in the affected municipality. An ordinance calling for such a referendum may specify a period for which the tax shall be effective. T.C.A. §§ 67-6-701, et seq. A statewide uniform local sales tax rate of 2.5 percent applies to intrastate telecommunications services, and a uniform local rate of 1.5 percent applies to interstate and international telecommunication services except for services to businesses that are exempt. Revenues will be used for the same purposes as other local sales tax revenues. T.C.A. § 67-6-702.

Unlike the state sales tax, the local option tax is not applied to the full purchase cost of expensive items. The local tax now applies to the first $1,600 of the purchase price. Because of this cap, the purchaser of an economy car and the buyer of a Rolls-Royce pay the same local option sales tax. T.C.A. § 67-6-702.

If a countywide local option sales tax is levied by referendum, then state law requires that half of any county levy be distributed on the same basis as the county property tax for schools (average daily attendance formula). The other half is distributed to the jurisdictions where collection took place. If it was collected in a city, it is distributed to that city. If it was collected outside the city, it is distributed to the county. However, an agreement between a county and a city may provide for a different distribution. One hundred percent of a city-only levy is general fund revenue subject to appropriation by the governing body, but it would terminate at the end of the city’s current fiscal year if the county makes a levy at the same or higher rate. T.C.A. § 67-6-703, T.C.A. § 67-6-712.

The local option sales tax is a situs tax. That is, the geographic location where the sale is made or the service is delivered determines which jurisdiction receives the collected tax.[1] A municipality receives the tax if the transaction occurs within its corporate limits. Municipalities could enhance their revenues by verifying the situs code for every business located within their corporate boundaries.

For a period of 15 years, a newly annexed area or newly incorporated city gives the county the same amount of local option sales tax and wholesale beer tax it was collecting on the date of incorporation. T.C.A. § 67-6-712.

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