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Last Updated: 3/22/2017

Foreign Diplomatic and Consular Missions

Some purchases by foreign diplomats and consular personnel are not taxable. It depends on what type of exemption card is used, what is being purchased, and whether it is for the mission or an individual.

Purchases made by internet and telephone do not qualify for the foreign government exemption and are taxable unless some other exemption applies.

Exemption cards cannot be used to purchase:

  • Airline tickets or cruises
  • Gasoline/diesel fuel
  • Motor vehicles, boats, and aircraft
  • Utility services

Note: The above items may be exempt from tax by using a different authorization process. For more information, see Diplomatic Tax Exemtions on the U.S. State Department website.

Identifying a diplomatic or consular exemption card

The U.S. State Department's Office of Foreign Missions and the American Institute of Taiwan issue exemption cards to some foreign diplomats and consular personnel. Each card contains the following:

  • Official’s name
  • Official’s picture
  • Mission employed by
  • Protocol identification (PID) number
  • North American animal image
  • What purchases are not taxable

There are two types of exemption cards:

  • Mission
    • Issued to the mission’s contact person. Mission personnel may purchase items in the name of the foreign mission. The contact person does not need to be present.

    • Purchases must be necessary for the mission’s operations and functions.

    • Cannot be used to purchase personal items, medical treatments, or travel/tourism.

    • Purchases must be paid directly by the foreign mission with a check, credit card, or wire transfer. Cash or personal payments are not allowed.

  • Personal
    • Issued to the individual listed on the card. Only that individual can use the card; it is not transferrable to anyone else.

    • Purchases must benefit the individual on the card.

    • No restrictions on the form of payment, including cash.  

Identifying the exemption card

Animal symbols identify the type of exemption card and if any additional restrictions apply.

​Animal

Card Type

​Authorized purchaser

​Additional restrictions

​Owl

Mission​

Any mission personnel

​None.

​Buffalo

​Mission

Any mission personnel

​Restrictions. See card for details.

​Eagle

​Personal

​Only person listed on card

​None.

​Deer

​Personal

​​Only person listed on card

​Restrictions. See card for details.