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Last Updated: 6/26/2018

General Taxable Purchases and Use Tax


Items you use to operate your business are taxable unless an exemption applies. Several services are also taxable. If you do not pay sales tax on a taxable purchase, then use tax is due. See the table below for specific examples.



General expenses

​Items used for general business operations. Examples include:

  • cleaning supplies
  • computers
  • office phone systems
  • office supplies
  • moving equipment
  • tools

Taxable services

Shipping (intermodal) containers

Shipping containers are taxable. Shipping containers, also known as intermodal containers, are used to transport freight on ships, tractor-trailers, and railways.

Complimentary items

If you give away items while providing a nontaxable service, you must pay sales or use tax on any taxable items given away.


If an airline serves free snacks or soda during a flight, it owes use tax on the taxable items given away (unless it paid sales tax when the items were purchased).

Use tax

If you buy equipment, supplies, or other taxable items for your business and the seller does not charge Minnesota sales tax, you owe use tax on the cost of the items. If your business is located in an area with a local tax, you may also owe local use tax.

Some common situations where you may owe use tax include:

  • You buy taxable items or services online without paying sales tax
  • You withdraw an item from inventory to use (instead of selling it), donate, or give away
  • You buy taxable items outside of Minnesota
  • You buy taxable items in another Minnesota city or county with a lower (or no) local sales tax

For more information, see Fact Sheet 146, Use Tax for Businesses and Fact Sheet 164, Local Sales and Use Taxes.


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