Are Books Taxable in Pennsylvania?

Tax laws differ widely by state and in some cases states don’t charge sales tax at all. Pennsylvania is one state that does, but only on certain items. If you’re planning to buy books in the state of Pennsylvania, whether textbooks or for leisure, prepare for the possibility of having to pay a sales tax on this type of purchase.

Pennsylvania Sales Tax Rate

The state sales tax rate in Pennsylvania as of 2011 is 6 percent. Additional sales taxes charged vary by locality and county within the state. For instance, in the city of Philadelphia the locality charges an additional tax of 2 percent. If you buy a taxable item in Allegheny County, you have to pay an additional 1 percent tax to the county.

Books Are Taxable

In the state of Pennsylvania, retail sales of tangible items and certain types of services are taxable. The purchase of books are included as taxable items. So if you want to buy a novel or a nonfiction self-help book from your local big-name bookstore or a small local shop, be prepared to pay the state sales tax plus any additional taxes charged by the county or locality.


Sales of textbooks to college students are sales tax-exempt in the state of Pennsylvania. In order to avoid paying sales tax the student has to buy the textbook from a school store and it must be required reading for the student’s assigned courses. So if you buy a used textbook from an off-campus vendor you may have to pay sales tax on that purchase.

Internet Purchases

When you purchase online electronic books (eBooks) it is unlikely that you’ll have to pay a sales tax to the state of Pennsylvania since it is not a tangible product but is digitally delivered. In some cases, however, you may have to pay taxes on the online sale of printed books that ship to an address in Pennsylvania.