What is a Resale Certificate and Who Can Get One?

What is a Resale Certificate and Who Can Get One?

What is a resale certificate and how can it benefit your business? Read our guide to find out.

A resale certificate is an official document that exempts your business from paying sales tax on items you plan to resell. Acquiring this certificate is a fundamental step for businesses looking to comply with tax laws and avoid unnecessary costs on goods for resale. In this article, we’ll explore who can obtain a resale certificate and under what circumstances to keep their business transactions tax-efficient and legally compliant.

Understanding resale certificates

Resale certificates are legal documents allowing retailers to purchase goods intended for resale tax-free. Businesses must register for sales tax in at least one US state to use a resale certificate for making tax-exempt purchases. The certificates can be used to buy products they intend to resell or rent, or parts of products they will resell. In Florida, for example, businesses with an Annual Resale Certificate can buy or lease goods tax-free if these items are for resale or re-renting.

Identifying a valid resale certificate

A valid resale certificate must include the following information:

  • Purchaser’s name
  • Purchaser’s address
  • Registration number
  • Description of the purchased property
  • Reason for exemption
  • Declaration concerning taxable use
  • Date
  • Signature of an authorized individual from the purchasing company

Verifying the validity of a resale certificate is an integral step in the tax compliance process. If the certificate lacks any of the required information, it could be considered invalid, leading to potential legal complications. Additionally, changes in the business’s details, such as its name or address, could also render the certificate invalid.

Therefore, businesses should routinely check and update resale certificates to maintain their validity and compliance.

The differences between resale and exemption certificates

While both resale and exemption certificates are related to sales tax, there are key differences between them. Resale certificates are used when purchasing goods that will become part of property for resale in some states. This indicates a specific context under which a resale exemption certificate is applicable beyond just goods, also known as resale exemptions.

On the other hand, exemption certificates are used when goods are purchased for reasons other than resale that qualify them for a sales tax exemption. Understanding these differences helps businesses make the right choice when it comes to tax compliance.

Tangible personal property vs. taxable services

When it comes to resale certificates, it’s important to distinguish between tangible personal property and taxable services. Tangible personal property includes items that are physical and can be moved, such as furniture, machinery, and electronics. These items, when considered as property purchased, are eligible for purchase using a resale certificate, which is intended for goods that will be resold.

On the other hand, taxable services are those that cannot be physically touched or moved, like most professional or technical services. A taxable service generally falls outside the scope of resale certificates because it is not intended for resale as goods are. This is an important distinction for businesses to understand, as it helps to avoid improper use of resale certificates.

Misuse of these certificates can result in penalties, including fines and potential revocation of the business’s license to sell goods or services.

Does your business need a resale certificate?

Does your business need a resale certificate?

The need for a resale certificate depends on various factors, including the nature of your business and its operations:

  • Selling physical goods: If your business sells tangible products, especially in a retail or wholesale capacity, obtaining a resale certificate is highly advisable.
  • Operating in multiple states: Businesses that operate in multiple states should obtain resale certificates for each jurisdiction where they conduct business, as sales tax regulations vary by location (however, in some cases, a multistate resale certificate will suffice).
  • E-commerce businesses: Even businesses primarily operating online may need a resale certificate if they store inventory in certain states or have nexus (a significant presence) in those states.

To determine whether your business needs a resale certificate and navigate the complexities of sales tax laws, consulting with a tax professional is recommended.

How to obtain a resale certificate

The process of obtaining a resale certificate varies depending on the state where your business is located. Generally, it involves the following steps:

  • Register your business: Ensure that your business is registered with the appropriate state authorities for tax purposes.
  • Submit application: Complete the application form for a resale certificate provided by your state's taxing authority. This may require details about your business, including its structure, operations, and tax ID number.
  • Verification and approval: The taxing authority will review your application and verify the information provided. Once approved, you will receive your resale certificate.
  • Renewal and compliance: Resale certificates typically have an expiration date and may need to be renewed periodically. It's essential to stay compliant with state tax laws to avoid any issues.

Multistate resale certificates

For businesses that operate in more than one state, multistate resale certificates can be a game-changer. These certificates can streamline the process of tax-exempt purchases for resale, eliminating the need for separate certificates for each state or vendor.

Some key points to note about multistate resale certificates are:

  • However, it’s important to note that multistate resale certificates are not uniformly accepted across all states.
  • Businesses must be aware of each state’s rules and accepted forms, including state-specific documents or multistate options.

While multistate resale certificates can simplify tax-exempt purchases across states, it’s vital to remember that they don’t eliminate the need to follow each state’s distinct tax laws. Some states, like Colorado and North Carolina, opt to accept multistate resale certificates as opposed to issuing separate state-specific certificates. 

Other states, such as Mississippi, have unique approaches toward tax-exempt purchases, where no resale certificates are issued. Instead, a valid sales tax permit is all that’s required for tax-exempt transactions. Therefore, understanding each state’s specific resale certificate requirements where the business operates is of utmost importance.

Benefits of resale certificates

Benefits of resale certificates

Obtaining a resale certificate offers several benefits for businesses:

  • Tax savings: By not paying sales tax on purchases intended for resale, businesses can reduce their operating costs and improve their profit margins.
  • Streamlined operations: Resale certificates simplify the purchasing process for businesses, as they don't have to repeatedly pay and then seek refunds for sales tax on inventory.
  • Competitive pricing: With lower costs, businesses can potentially offer more competitive prices to their customers, gaining an edge in the market.
  • Compliance: Using a resale certificate ensures that businesses comply with state tax laws and regulations, avoiding penalties and legal issues.


A resale certificate is a valuable tool for businesses engaged in the sale of tangible goods. By allowing for tax-exempt purchases of inventory intended for resale, it helps businesses reduce costs, streamline operations, and maintain compliance with tax laws.

However, it's essential for businesses to understand the eligibility criteria and application process for resale certificates in their respective states. Consulting with a tax advisor or legal expert can provide valuable guidance in navigating these requirements.

Do you need help with your sales tax compliance? Book a free call with one of our sales tax experts to find bespoke solutions for your business, optimize your sales tax costs, and reach millions of new potential customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly does a resale certificate cover?

A resale certificate covers the purchase of goods intended for resale without paying sales tax at the point of purchase. It exempts the buyer from sales tax on items that will be resold in their business operations.

Can online businesses also use resale certificates?

Yes, online businesses can use resale certificates for purchasing goods for resale in the same way traditional businesses do, provided they adhere to the tax laws of the states where they conduct business.

Can services be purchased with a resale certificate?

No, resale certificates generally do not apply to services as they are intended for goods that will be resold. Services typically do not qualify unless they are part of a taxable item being sold.

How often do I need to renew my resale certificate?

The renewal frequency of a resale certificate varies by state. Some states require annual renewal, while others issue certificates that do not expire as long as the holder's business remains operational and in good standing.

Is a resale certificate valid in all states?

No, a resale certificate is not universally valid in all states. Each state has its own rules and may require a business to obtain a separate certificate specific to that state or comply with specific registration requirements.

June 10, 2024
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when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries
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