North Carolina Sales Tax Exemptions / Tax Free Items North Carolina:

North Carolina:

What purchases are exempt from the North Carolina sales tax?

While the North Carolina sales tax of 4.75% applies to most transactions, there are certain items that may be exempt from taxation. This page discusses various sales tax exemptions in North Carolina.

Sales Tax Exemptions in North Carolina

In North Carolina, certain items may be exempt from the sales tax to all consumers, not just tax-exempt purchasers.

Several examples of exemptions to the state sales tax are prescription medications, some types of groceries, some medical devices, and machinery and chemicals which are used in research and development.

Many states have special, lowered sales tax rates for certain types of staple goods - such as groceries, clothing and medicines. Restaurant meals may also have a special sales tax rate. Here are the special category rates for North Carolina:





Prepared Food


Prescription Drugs


OTC Drugs


These categories may have some further qualifications before the special rate applies, such as a price cap on clothing items. Groceries are generally defined as "unprepared food", while pre-prepared food may be subject to the restaurant food tax rate.

Candy and soda may be included or excluded from any preferential tax rate depending on whether or not the state considers them to be a "grocery":

Is candy taxable in North Carolina? Candy is NOT considered a grocery in North Carolina
Is soda taxable in North Carolina? Soda is NOT considered a grocery in North Carolina

Are services, shipping, installation, etc taxable in North Carolina?

The taxability of transactions involving services, shipping, and installation of tangible goods can be slightly complicated with various laws applying to slightly different situations. To learn more about how these transactions, and other more complicated situations, are subject to the North Carolina sales tax see the North Carolina sales taxability FAQ page.

Other tax-exempt items in North Carolina

This table lists a number of additional categories of goods and services that are exempt from North Carolina's sales tax. For a list that also shows taxable items, see the list of taxable and nontaxable items in North Carolina.

Category Exemption Status
Food and Meals
Grocery Food EXEMPT *
Leases and Rentals
Motor Vehicles EXEMPT *
Manufacturing and Machinery
Raw Materials EXEMPT *
Utilities & Fuel EXEMPT *
Medical Goods and Services
Medical Devices EXEMPT *
Medical Services EXEMPT
Occasional Sales
General Occasional Sales EXEMPT
Motor Vehicles EXEMPT *
Optional Maintenance Contracts
Parts Purchased for Use in Performing Service Under Optional Maintenance Contracts EXEMPT *
Janitorial Services EXEMPT
Transportation Services EXEMPT
Software and Digital Products
Custom Software - Delivered on Tangible Media EXEMPT
Custom Software - Downloaded EXEMPT

* See notes in category taxability page for details

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** This Document Provided By SalesTaxHandbook **

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