26 Dec 2023
9 min read

What Is the Sales Tax in Michigan?

A comprehensive exploration of Michigan's 6% sales tax — its historical roots, taxable goods and services, and factors influencing its application.
sales tax in michigan
Table of contents

The sales tax plays a vital role in the economic framework of Michigan, a bustling state renowned for its captivating landscapes and thriving industries. As one ventures from the serene shores of the Great Lakes to the vibrant streets of Detroit, a consistent 6% sales tax applies statewide. Established in 1933, this sales tax is a significant revenue source for Michigan, funding essential public services such as education and healthcare.

It is important to note that while the Michigan sales tax audit is uniform, variations may arise concerning certain taxable goods and services, presenting a complex landscape worthy of exploration. What does this mean for residents, tourists, and businesses in the Wolverine state? Is it as straightforward as it appears, or are there nuances and exemptions that require awareness? Read further to delve into the details.

History of the Michigan sales tax

History of the Michigan Sales Tax

The Michigan Sales Tax has a rich history dating back to the heart of the Great Depression in the 1930s. It was established in 1933 as one of the strategies to counter the economic downturn and provide vital revenue to the state. Initially implemented at a rate of 3%, it was intended as a temporary measure but was later made permanent and subsequently increased over the years in response to the state's growing financial needs.

This rate incrementally rose from 3% to 4% in 1960 and escalated to 6% in 1994, where it has remained ever since. Despite its seemingly straightforward nature, this tax has played a pivotal role in the state's recovery and economic well-being. A notable example of its impact is evident in the fiscal year 2019 when the Michigan Department of Treasury reported that the sales tax generated nearly $8 billion, accounting for approximately 27% of the state's total revenue. This significant contribution has been instrumental in allowing Michigan to fund critical public services, thus highlighting the profound and enduring influence of the sales and use tax on the state's financial landscape.

What is taxable in Michigan

What Is Taxable in Michigan?

The state of Michigan has an extensive list of taxable goods and services, some of which may surprise you. Some of the items that are currently subjected to pay sales tax in Michigan include:

Retail Sales

Retail sales constitute a vast portion of Michigan's taxable transactions, encompassing various goods sold to the end consumer. These transactions involve selling tangible personal property to the buyer for consumption or use, not resale. From clothing and electronics to furniture and home appliances, if a product is purchased from a retail store or an online marketplace, it is generally subject to the 6% sales tax.

Essentially, any physical commodity that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched in any other manner perceptible to the senses falls within the ambit of taxable retail sales. For example, if you purchase a new television from a local electronics store in Michigan, you will likely pay an additional 6% sales tax on top of the retail price. This revenue generated from retail sales has enabled the state to fund its public services and maintain its economic stability.

Meals and Beverages at Restaurants

Patrons of Michigan's diverse culinary scene will find that their dining experiences also contribute to the state's sales tax revenue. Whether a four-course meal at an upscale restaurant in Detroit's central business district or a quick coffee and sandwich at a casual café in Grand Rapids, the 6% sales tax applies uniformly to the final bill for meals and beverages served within the restaurant premises. This tax extends not only to the food and drink consumed but also encapsulates any related charges, such as corkage fees or mandatory gratuities that some establishments may levy.

Additionally, it's essential to understand that this sales tax filing applies regardless of the service mode, whether dine-in, takeaway, or even home delivery. For instance, if you were to order a pizza for delivery costing $20, you would be expected to pay an additional $1.20 in sales tax, bringing your total expenditure to $21.20. These small additions to each transaction cumulate a significant portion of Michigan's annual revenue, reinforcing the importance of the sales tax in the financial and economic landscape.


When planning a trip to explore Michigan's picturesque destinations and attractions, visitors should note that the state imposes a sales tax on all lodging establishments. This includes hotels, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, short-term rental properties, and campgrounds. The 6% sales tax applies to the establishment's room rate and any additional fees or charges such as room service, parking, and resort fees.

For example, if you were to book a two-night stay at a hotel in downtown Ann Arbor costing $300 per night, your total bill would amount to $360 after adding the 6% sales tax. Such an expenditure would then contribute to the state's revenue and help maintain its public services, including tourism and infrastructure development.


In Michigan, the cost of gasoline is also a direct contributor to the state's sales tax revenues. This may surprise many, as it is a common misconception that energy sources such as gasoline and diesel are exempt from this universal 6% sales tax. However, the reality is that the Michigan Department of Treasury does impose a sales tax on all gasoline purchases, effectively adding to the final price at the pump.

This tax is applied to the base price of the gasoline before other taxes and fees, including the Michigan Motor Fuel Tax and Federal Excise Tax, are added. This layered tax structure underscores the state's commitment to leveraging existing commerce for public benefit, even in areas as ubiquitous as fuel consumption. For instance, if a Michigan resident were to fill their car with $50 worth of gasoline, the final price would include an additional $3 sales tax.

Legal and Professional Services

The provision of legal and professional services in Michigan is also subject to the state's sales tax laws, with a few exceptions. This means clients receiving these services from attorneys, accountants, architects, engineers, or other professionals must pay an additional 6% for their expertise. However, some specific professions, such as healthcare and social assistance services, are exempt from this sales tax.

One possible reason for this exemption is that many professions, including doctors and therapists, are already heavily regulated by the state and subject to their own taxes. Nonetheless, any taxable service rendered by a Michigan professional contributes to the sales tax's overall revenue. For example, if you were to hire a lawyer for a legal consultation costing $200, you would be expected to pay an additional $12 in sales tax.

Car Sales and Leases

In the state of Michigan, the act of purchasing or leasing motor vehicles is another significant contributor to the total sales tax revenue. This includes cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs), and boats. When a vehicle is bought, whether new or used, a sales tax of 6% is applied to the selling price, generally including any extras like upgrades, accessories, or extended warranties. Similarly, for leased vehicles, the sales tax is calculated on the total lease payments rather than the vehicle's cost.

An interesting aspect of Michigan's law is that if a trade-in vehicle is involved, the sales tax is applied only to the difference between the price and the trade-in value. This law aims to alleviate some financial burden on the consumer, making vehicle ownership more accessible. For instance, if you purchase a car for $25,000 and trade in your old vehicle for $10,000, the 6% sales tax applies to the $15,000 difference, not the full $25,000. Consequently, you would pay $900 in sales tax instead of $1,500. These nuances underline the complexity of the state's sales tax system, reinforcing the importance of understanding its constituents and their implications.

Factors That May Influence the Sales Tax

Factors that may infuence the sales tax

While Michigan's sales tax applies uniformly to most goods and services, some factors may influence its applicability or rate. Here are some common factors that may affect Michigan sales tax rates:


Location plays a pivotal role in determining sales tax within Michigan. The statewide sales tax rate is a consistent 6% across the board, unvarying from city to city or county to county. This uniform approach simplifies tax computation for businesses and consumers, eliminating the need to account for varying local sales tax rates.

However, it's noteworthy that this uniformity only applies to state sales tax. Some cities or municipalities might impose additional local taxes, typically applied to specific goods or services. For instance, Detroit levies a 5% tax on rental cars and an additional 2% tax on hotel accommodations on top of the statewide 6% sales tax. Therefore, while the statewide sales tax remains constant, the total tax liability may vary based on the location and the type of purchase.

Goods and Services

The types of goods and services purchased significantly influence the imposition of the sales tax in Michigan. Generally, the 6% sales tax applies to tangible personal property (items that can be seen, weighed, measured, or touched) and selected services. This broad category includes the sale of motor vehicles, lodging, gasoline, legal and professional services, and more. However, certain goods and services are exempt from the sales tax.

These exemptions are usually made based on the nature or importance of the item or service in question. For instance, essential services such as healthcare and social assistance are exempt, aligning with societal objectives of making essential services more affordable. Similarly, specific goods like groceries, prescription drugs, and newspapers are exempt from the sales tax. Consumers and businesses need to understand these exemptions to calculate a transaction's total cost correctly.

Taxable and Non-Taxable Sales

In Michigan, sales tax filing typically includes tangible personal property and certain services, as mentioned above. When you purchase anything from a new vehicle to a professional consultation, the state's 6% sales tax is generally applied. However, not all sales are subject to this tax. Many are considered non-taxable due to their nature or societal importance.

Non-taxable sales in Michigan often involve essential items or services. For instance, groceries, prescription medications, newspapers, and secondhand goods are generally exempt from the sales tax. This exemption extends to healthcare, education, and social assistance services. It ensures that necessary goods and services remain affordable for all residents.

Importantly, the distinction between taxable and non-taxable sales isn't always straightforward. Some transactions, like the sale of digital goods or services, may pose unique challenges in determining their tax status. Therefore, businesses and consumers should verify the tax status of each transaction to ensure accurate calculation and payment of sales tax.

Buyer's Tax Status

In some cases, the buyer's tax status may impact the application of sales tax in Michigan. For instance, non-profit organizations with a valid tax-exempt certificate from the state are generally exempt from state sales tax on purchases made for their organization's purposes. Similarly, buyers who hold a Michigan sales tax license or purchase items for resale are exempt from paying sales tax.

However, not all buyers enjoy a tax-exempt status in Michigan. For instance, out-of-state buyers who purchase goods or services while visiting Michigan must pay the state's 6% sales tax unless they qualify for an exemption. Similarly, individuals purchasing vehicles and registering them out of state must pay the full 6% sales tax, even if they reside in a state with lower or no sales tax.

Time of Purchase

Time-based factors can also influence the application of sales tax in Michigan. Generally, the gross receipts from each sale are subject to sales tax once and only once at the point of purchase. However, there are exceptions to this rule that businesses and consumers should be aware of.

For example, the sales tax rate on a motor vehicle's lease or rental is based on the monthly payment amount and must be applied to each payment made during its term. Similarly, businesses that buy goods for resale may apply for a refund of sales tax paid on those purchases at the end of each fiscal year. These nuances highlight the importance of staying informed about tax laws and regulations, especially if you're a business owner or frequently make large purchases.

Taxable Amount

The taxable amount is the total value of goods or services subject to sales tax in Michigan. In most cases, this includes the sale price plus any additional charges such as service fees, finance charges, delivery fees, etc. However, some deductions may reduce the taxable amount. For instance, manufacturers who sell their goods directly to consumers or retailers can deduct the cost of raw materials used in production from the taxable amount.

Understanding these nuances when calculating sales tax liability is essential to avoid overpaying or underpaying taxes. Business owners must correctly categorize each sale and verify the applicable sales tax rate for accurate tax calculation. Similarly, consumers should verify the taxable amount when purchasing goods or services to avoid discrepancies in their final bill.

Challenges Faced with Sales Tax

While the sales tax in Michigan follows a general framework, several challenges can arise when implementing and enforcing it. Some common challenges include:

  • Determining the taxability of new products and services: As technology evolves, new products and services may not fit existing tax laws or regulations. Determining the taxability of these products and services can be challenging for businesses and taxing authorities.
  • Collecting sales tax on online purchases: The rise of e-commerce has made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax from online purchases. This challenge has led to the implementation various laws and regulations, such as "Amazon Laws," which require large online retailers to collect sales tax on transactions with customers in a specific state.
  • Lack of uniformity among states: Each state has its own set of sales tax laws and rates, making it challenging for businesses that operate across multiple states to comply with varying tax laws.
Share this post
Copy link
Contact us
Stop worrying about sales tax
Let The Sales Tax People take care of it for you.
Blog Article Form
Latest posts
The Sales Tax Blog
Updates, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.
View all posts
Join our newsletter
Be in the know: promotions, industry news & insights.
Newsletter Sign Up - "Subscribe"

We care about your data — privacy policy.