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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Information for Missions & Mission Personnel


Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program


Information for Foreign Missions


Pursuant to international law and under domestic authority of the 1982 Foreign Missions Act (22 USC 4301, et seq.), the Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program administered by the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) provides sales, gasoline, utility, and personal property tax exemption to eligible foreign missions and their personnel in the United States and its territories on the basis of reciprocity.




Sales Tax Exemption   

The Office of Foreign Missions issues tax exemption cards to eligible foreign missions, mission personnel and their family members consistent with international law, domestic statute, and the underlying principle of reciprocity.  Tax cards provide point-of-sale exemption from sales tax throughout the United States.  This system provides immediate relief from taxes without the administrative burdens, costs, and delays commonly associated with rebate systems.



Who is Eligible

                                      The following categories of accredited foreign government personnel qualify for tax exemption cards:


                                                          Diplomatic Officers and eligible family members who are not citizens or residents of the United States.


                                                          Consular officers and eligible family members who are not citizens or residents of the United States.


                                                          Mission administrative and technical staff and eligible family members who are not residents of the United States.


                                                          Other staff that qualifies based on bilateral treaties between the U.S. and certain countries.



Use of Sales Tax Exemption Cards

                                                The diplomatic sales tax exemption cards are valid nationwide and are directly binding on all state and local jurisdictions.


                                                            Sales tax exemption cards are valid at the point of sale.  To fully derive the benefits of sales tax exemption, the cardholder must exercise a certain degree of planning.  Since hotel bills are the most common source of problems, cardholders must make reservations and notify the hotel of the tax-exempt status in advance.  If a hotel fails to agree to accommodate the traveler on such a tax-exempt basis, another hotel that will recognize the tax exemption should be selected.  Cardholders who travel outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area may find themselves in the position of informing hotels and other vendors of their tax exemption privileges.  The cardholders is entitled to politely but firmly insist on sales tax exemption from hotel and sales taxes in all state, and may further offer the innkeeper or vendor a copy of the Department's Diplomatic Note 89-193 (dated April 27, 1989) as additional explanation of the tax exemption program.


                                                            Cardholders should allow sufficient time to resolve tax exemption questions at hotels.  A cardholder who checks out of a hotel at the last minute under pressure to make an airline flight or business meeting may not have sufficient time to obtain tax exemption, since the question is often referred to the hotel management, local government authorities, or OFM.


                                                            Should the business or hotel management have questions concerning bookkeeping requirements, they may be directed to the appropriate city or state Department of Revenue.  Any questions regarding the eligibility of foreign diplomatic, consular, or other officers for sales and use tax exemption should be directed to OFM at 202 895-3563 or the nearest OFM Regional Office.  The mailing address is:


    Office of Foreign Missions, Tax Program

                U.S. Department of State

            3507 International Place, NW,

             Washington, DC 20522-3303.



Lost or Stolen Cards

                                      When a card is lost or stolen, the mission must send a diplomatic note to the Department providing details, including the name and tax exemption number, when and where the card was lost or stolen.  If the cardholder wishes the Department to issue a replacement, a new application and one passport photograph must accompany the diplomatic note.  In the event of lost or stolen cards, Tax Exemption Card application replacements will be held for 30 days before processing.  This will allow time for lost or stolen cards to be returned.  Tax exemption cards that have expired or been recalled must be immediately returned to the Department.  Personnel, who tour of duty has been extended, must reapply for a tax card.  Personnel who complete a tour of duty or become otherwise ineligible for a tax exemption card must return their card to the Department's Office of Foreign Missions as soon as possible.



Misuse of Tax Cards

                                      The department reminds all missions and personnel that misuse of tax exemption privileges is a serious offense.  Both the personal and mission sales tax exemption cards are nontransferable; only the person whose photograph appears on the card may use it.  In addition, mission cards are valid only for official purchases of the mission—any attempt to use a mission tax exemption card for a personal purchase is considered abuse and the card will be recalled.




                                                OFM frequently receives requests from the diplomatic community for refunds of sales taxes paid by cardholders.  Obtaining such refunds is a time-consuming, labor-intensive and difficult task.  Therefore, OFM will only assist in obtaining refunds of those taxes in excess of $50.00 per receipt.


                                                This tax exemption program is a point of sale, not a refund program.  The eligible cardholder must seek an exemption at the time of purchase or signing a contract.  A person who is eligible for tax exemption may risk losing this privilege by agreeing to pay a tax on a contract or purchase of goods or services.  OFM can not assist with refunds of tax paid on Internet purchases.


                                                When applying for refunds, the cardholder must submit the request in writing with an explanation of the circumstances, and copies of the receipt (highlighting the taxes) and sales tax exemption card.  The request should also include the business address, phone number, and point of contact.  Please allow 30 days for processing.


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