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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Sales Tax Exemption


Tax Exemption Cards:

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


Levels of Exemption

OFM is directed to restrict the level of, or withdraw entirely, tax exemptions granted to a mission or its personnel in such cases where the sending state does not provide full tax exemption to U.S. missions in their country. To accomplish this, benefits provided by tax cards may be extended or restricted in several ways:

  1. Full Exemption – A eagle or an owl symbol a tax exemption card indicates full exemption from taxes on the purchase of all goods or services.
  2. Withdrawal of Privileges – Tax exemption cards may be temporarily or completely withdrawn, eliminating the benefit of sales tax exemption.

(The following benefits and restrictions may occur singly or in tandem, as required to achieve reciprocity.)

  1. Minimum Purchase Requirement – If a minimum purchase requirement is identified on the card, the sale must meet or exceed this amount in order to be eligible for tax exemption. The minimum purchase amount will be specified on the front and the back of the card.
  2. Excluded Categories – The card may limit the applicability of the tax exemption to or from certain categories of goods or services. These restrictions will be specified on the front and the back of the card.

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Types of Sales Tax Exemption Cards

Mission Tax Exemption Card

Mission tax exemption cards are issued to designated representatives of embassies, consulates, and international organizations for use when making official purchases. Two cards will be issued to each diplomatic mission and consulate.

These cards may be used for exemption from taxes only when purchases are made for the official use of the mission. These cards may also be used by other mission employees for official purchases.

All purchases must be made in the name of the mission and paid for by either a mission check or credit card. Cash, credit cards or personal checks in the name of the bearer of the mission tax exemption card cannot be used as payment. More importantly, the agent may not use a mission card for personal purchases.

Personal Tax Exemption Cards

Personal tax exemption cards are issued for the sole benefit of the individual identified and pictured on the card. Under no circumstances may use of a personal sales tax exemption card be transferred. An individual may not loan the card to a family member or friend, regardless of his/her eligibility for exemption from taxes. Personal tax exemption cards are not valid for exemption from taxes on telephones, other utilities, or gasoline purchases. Exemptions from these items are processed separately.

Tax exemption cards that have expired or been recalled must be immediately returned to OFM. Personnel who complete a tour of duty or become otherwise ineligible for a tax exemption card must return their card to OFM as soon as possible.

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Who is Eligible

The following categories of accredited foreign mission personnel may apply for tax exemption cards:

  • diplomatic officers and eligible family members who are not citizens or residents of the United States;
  • administrative and technical staff members 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;
  • consular employees and eligible family members who are not citizens or residents of the United States;
  • other staff who qualify based on bilateral treaties between the U.S. and certain countries
    dependent children of a mission member eligible for tax exemption privileges may obtain a tax exemption card at the age of 18. This card will be valid until the individual's 21 birthday; and
  • dependent children of a mission member eligible for tax exemption who are accredited as justified student may have a tax exemption card until their 23rd birthday.

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How to Apply for a Tax-Exemption Card

To apply for a tax exemption card:

  • Using the Department’s E-Government Program, complete a request for a Tax Exemption Card.
  • Affix one current color photograph to the Photo Signature Card (printed from the E-Government Program).
  • Following the submission of the request for Tax Exemption Card services, the mission shall print the “Submission Receipt” from the E-Government Program and attach it to the completed Photo Signature Card.
  • Missions must deliver the “Submission Receipt” and the attached Photo Signature Card to OFM’s Customer Service Center (Washington, DC area only) or the appropriate OFM Regional Office.
  • Allow at least five-working days for each application to be processed before contacting the Office of Foreign Missions concerning the status of a tax-exemption card.

To apply for a renewal tax-exemption card:

  • Follow the procedures outlined above.

To apply for a replacement tax-exemption card (lost or stolen):

  • Follow the procedures outlined above.
  • If a tax card is lost or stolen, the mission must submit a diplomatic note to OFM explaining when and where the card in question was lost or stolen. OFM will not produce the replacement card until the aforementioned note is provided.
  • In the event of a lost or stolen card, the Tax Exemption Card application for replacement will be held for 30 days before processing. This will allow time for the lost or stolen card to be returned.

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Return of Tax Exemption Cards

All tax exemption cards (both personal and mission) are the property of the U.S. Government and must be returned to OFM when they have expired, recalled, or when the individual’s employment or assignment with an embassy, consulate, or international organization has been terminated. Tax exemption cards of personnel who become permanent residents of the United States must also be returned to OFM.

Failure to return a tax exemption card as required is considered a violation of the Department of State regulations and may result in the temporary suspension of new card-issuance for the individual/mission.

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Internet Purchases

The nature of Internet purchases does not allow for the presentation of diplomatic tax exemption card. Therefore, OFM advises those eligible for tax exemption privileges that such relief cannot be granted on purchases made through an Internet website. OFM will not provide any assistance to foreign missions or their members in obtaining an exemption or reimbursement of taxes charges on purchases made through the Internet.

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Refunds

The Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program operates on a point-of sale basis. Therefore, the eligible cardholder must seek an exemption at the time of purchase or signing a contract. OFM will not assist in the refund of taxes paid on Internet purchases, regardless of the amount of the purchase.

OFM frequently receives requests from the diplomatic community for refunds of sales taxes paid by cardholders. Obtaining such refunds is difficult in a sales tax system, which is unlike a VAT system in that reimbursements and refunds are abnormal and extraordinary procedures. Therefore, OFM will only assist in attempting to obtain refunds of those taxes in excess of $50.00 per receipt.

When requesting OFM’s assistance with obtaining a tax refund the cardholder must submit a written request with an explanation of the circumstances, and copies of the receipt(s) (highlighting the taxes) and the tax exemption card. The request should also include the vendor’s business address and phone number, as well as the name of a point of contact. Please allow 30 days for processing.


streamlined sales tax agreement exemption certificate

The Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement (Agreement), a multi-state agreement providing for the simplification of the nation’s varying sales tax laws, is now effective in 23 states. These states include: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. It is anticipated that other states may join this agreement in the future.

In accordance with the Agreement, the procedure for obtaining an exemption from sales tax on the basis of diplomatic or consular status remains similar to previous procedures. Please note that this procedure only applies to purchases made in the states listed above. The procedure for obtaining tax-exemption on purchases made in all other states and the District of Columbia has not changed. In order for foreign missions, international organizations, or their eligible members to obtain tax exemption on purchases made in the states listed above, the following procedure must be followed:

  • At the point of purchase, the foreign mission, international organization, or eligible member (the purchaser) must inform the vendor that they are eligible for exemption from sales tax exemption on the basis of diplomatic or consular status.
  • The purchaser must then present a valid tax-exemption identification card issued by the Department of State.
  • The vendor is required to review the card to ensure that the purchase complies with the level of tax-relief the Department has reciprocally established for the cardholder.
  • Sales tax exemption can only be authorized on official purchases if the payment is made with either an official credit/debit card or check.
  • If the purchase qualifies, the cardholder must complete a “Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement – Certificate of Exemption,” and submit the document to the vendor. (See Tabs for sample certificates.)
  • Once the vendor accepts the Certificate, the transaction may be authorized for sales tax exemption.

Instructions for Completing the Certificate of Exemption:

  1. Enter the two-letter postal abbreviation of the state where the purchase is being made. (e.g. NC, NJ…)
  2. Check the box for a single purchase certificate.
  3. Complete the “Business” and “Seller” section.
  • Name of Purchaser – Individual, Foreign Mission, International Organization
  • Business Address – Personal Address of Individual, official address of Foreign Missions or International Organization
  • Purchaser’s Tax ID Number – Leave Blank
  • State of Issue – Leave Blank
  • Country of Issue – Leave Blank
  • FEIN (Federal Employee Identification Number) – If a Foreign Mission or International Organization have this number, they may list it here, however this is not required.
  • Driver’s License Number/State Issued ID Number – The purchaser may list this information, however it is not required.
  • Foreign Diplomat Number – The purchaser must enter the 10-digit number displayed beneath the photo on their tax exemption identification card. (i.e. 4006-0000-01)
  • Name & Address of Seller – This information can be obtained from the vendor and is required.

4. Complete the Type of Business Section

  • Purchasers requesting sales tax exemption on the basis of diplomatic or consular status must circle number 20 for “Other” and write in “Diplomatic Mission” for both Personal and Mission-related expenses.

5. Complete the Reason for Exemption section.

  • Purchasers requesting sales tax exemption on the basis of diplomatic or consular status must check box D, “Foreign Diplomat,” and include the number displayed beneath the photo on their tax exemption identification card. (i.e. 4006-0000-01)

6. The purchaser must sign and date the Certificate.

The Office of Foreign Missions advises all foreign missions, international organizations, and individuals that are either assigned or plan to travel to the states listed at the beginning of this notice, to make photocopies of the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement Exemption Certificate.


Tax Exemption in Arizona

Eligible foreign missions and their members are one of the only groups entitled to receive an exemption from the transaction privilege tax imposed by State of Arizona. Therefore, it is uncommon for vendors in Arizona to be familiar or accustomed to receiving or granting requests for diplomatic or consular tax exemption.

OFM advises missions and their members that plan to make tax-exempt purchases in Arizona to present a photocopy of the OFM Notice, dated February 9, 2004 to vendors. This notice includes a letter from the State of Arizona’s Department of Revenue concerning the proper means in which vendors shall authorize and grant diplomatic and consular tax exemptions in that state.

The letter from the State of Arizona’s Department of Revenue will further explain to Arizona vendors their ability to grant diplomatic or consular tax relief. Failure to use this letter may delay or prevent a foreign mission or member from receiving tax exemption.


Tax Exemption in New York

OFM works in cooperation with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to ensure that all foreign missions and their members that are authorized for tax exemption by the Department of State receive due tax exemption for purchases made in New York State. In order to do so, missions and their members are required to complete and submit to vendors throughout New York, in addition to their tax exemption card, form DTF-950 (“Certificate of Sales Tax Exemption for Diplomatic Missions & Personnel”)

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