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Unlocking the Secrets of Maine Sales Tax: What You Need to Know

Key Takeaways  

1. Understand tax exemptions in Maine

2. Learn how the tax of Maine is different from other states 

3. Understand the Impact of sales tax on the economy

4. Learn how to calculate Maine business sales tax 

The government imposes a sales tax on the purchase of goods and services. It is generally computed as a percentage of the sale price and is collected at the time of purchase by the seller. Knowing the sales tax laws helps the firms to assure compliance and prevent any penalties or legal concerns. It also has an impact on pricing strategies and profit margins. Understanding sales tax can help consumers precisely estimate their expenditures and avoid surprises at the cash register.

Understanding the Maine Sales Tax Rate

Definition of Maine Sales Tax

The Maine Sales Tax is a state tax levied on the sale, use, consumption, or rental of tangible personal property and some services. Businesses collect the tax and remit it to the Maine Revenue Services (MRS) on behalf of the state. 

Current rate and what it applies to

Maine's current sales tax rate is 5.5%. Tangible Personal Property and prepared foods are subject to sales tax. Food, lodging and accommodations, services such as repair and installation, transportation services (such as taxi trips), and some personal services (such as spa treatments) may be taxed. Examples of exemptions include groceries,  prescriptions, certain agricultural products, and specific manufacturing equipment.

Maine Taxable Items and Sales Tax Exemptions

Overview of taxable goods in Maine

Most commodities and tangible personal property in Maine are subject to sales tax. Maine's current sales tax rate is 5.5%. Retail sales of tangible personal property, prepared food and meals, alcoholic drinks, motor vehicles, building materials, gasoline, and digital products are all examples of taxable things. 

Explanation of any specific exemptions or exceptions

Maine offers sales tax exemptions and exceptions for various items or situations. Here are a few noteworthy exceptions:

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  • Foodstuffs: In Maine, most foodstuffs, such as unprepared food items for home consumption, are exempt from sales tax. This includes fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products, and other uncooked food products. Maine prescription pharmaceuticals are exempt from sales tax if a licensed chemist dispenses them.
  • Exemptions for clothing: Clothing products valued at $55 or less per item are generally free from sales tax in Maine. Accessories, protective equipment, and special apparel designed primarily for athletic activity, on the other hand, may still be taxed.

  • Nonprofit organizations: In certain instances, sales made by approved nonprofit organizations such as charities and religious institutions may be excluded from sales tax. This exemption, however, does not apply to all sales made by organizations.

  • Exemptions for resale: In Maine, purchases of items for resale are generally free from sales tax. The purchaser must, however, supply the seller with a valid resale certificate.

Special Tax Rates in Maine

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Discussion on special tax rates for certain types of goods (e.g., prepared food, lodging, etc.)

Certain types of items are subject to different tax rates in Maine. These rates differ from the central sales tax rate and are tailored to target specific sectors or product groups. Here are some examples of Maine's unique tax rates:

  • Prepared Food and Meals: Prepared food and meals served in restaurants, fast food businesses, and similar establishments are subject to a special tax rate in Maine.
  • Lodging: Another specific tax rate in Maine relates to lodging establishments such as hotels, motels, inns, and bed and breakfasts. 
  • Liquor and alcohol: Liquor and alcohol rates vary depending on the type and amount of alcohol in the beverage. Distilled spirits, wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages may be taxed at different rates.

History of Sales Tax in Maine

When it was introduced

Maine's sales tax was implemented on July 1, 1951. The tax rate was initially fixed at 2%. This tax was enacted to generate money for the state government as well as to fund other public services and programs.

Notable changes and Impact on the Maine sales tax rate over the years

The Maine sales tax rate has undergone several significant adjustments, affecting its rate and scope. Here are some changes: 

Changes in Interest Rates:

The sales tax rate was raised from 3% to 4% in 1969. The rate was increased to 5% in 1973.

The rate increased again to 6% in 1980. The rate was temporarily raised to 7% in 1983 as part of a revenue-raising strategy but was dropped back to 6% in 1985. In 1991, the rate was raised to 6.5%. In 1997, the rate was decreased to 5%. In 2013, the rate was raised to 5.5%, and certain goods and services were subject to a 10% luxury tax. In 2016, the rate was cut to 5.5% once more.

Changes to the Scope:

Initially, the sales tax solely applied to the retail sale of tangible personal property. However, the tax's reach has widened to embrace various services and specific items.

Local Option Sales Tax:

In addition to the state sales tax, certain municipalities in Maine have established local choice sales taxes. These are additional taxes imposed by specific towns or localities on top of the state sales tax. Local option tax rates and regulations

Comparison of Maine's Tax Rate to Other States

How Maine's sales tax compares to the national average

To compare Maine's sales tax rate to the national average, remember that sales tax rates vary greatly between states, with some states having no sales tax at all. State and local sales taxes are included in the national average sales tax rate. The average combined state and local sales tax rate in the United States in 2021 was around 7.1%. The 5.5% sales tax in Maine is lower than the national average. It should be noted, however, that some states have lower sales tax rates than Maine, while others have higher rates.

Brief review of states with higher and lower rates

States with Higher Sales Tax Rates:

  • California: As of 2021, California has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country, with a combined state and average local rate of 8.68%.
  • Tennessee: Beginning in 2021, Tennessee will levy a 7% sales tax higher than Maine's rate.
  • Louisiana: In 2021, Louisiana's combined state and average local sales tax rate was 9.52%, making it one of the states with higher rates.

Lower Sales Tax Rates:

  • Oregon, Montana, Alaska, Delaware, and New Hampshire do not have a sales tax; hence their rates are virtually 0%.
  • Colorado: Colorado has a lower state sales tax rate of 2.9% than Maine.

The Role of Sales Tax in Maine's Economy

Sales tax contribution to Maine's revenue

Maine's sales tax is an essential source of revenue for the state. It is a consumption-based tax levied on products and services sold within the state. Sales tax revenue is critical in funding numerous government programs and services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure development, public safety, and other vital public services.

Impact on businesses and consumers

In Maine, the sales tax, directly and indirectly, affects businesses and consumers. Sales tax collection and remittance add administrative responsibilities and costs to businesses. Businesses must accurately calculate and collect their consumers' required sales tax amounts, keep suitable records, and file tax returns regularly. Sales tax has an impact on the price of goods and services purchased by consumers. When a consumer makes a sales tax-exempt transaction, they must pay an additional percentage on top of the base amount. 

Role in economic growth and development

The Maine sales tax contributes to the state's economic growth and development. Sales tax revenue is used to pay public investments and services that are critical to economic development. For example, sales tax revenue-funded infrastructure, education, and healthcare expenditures can improve the overall business climate, attract investment, and contribute to long-term economic growth.

The Maine Use Tax is levied on the use, consumption, or storage of tangible personal property and some taxable services acquired outside of Maine but utilized within the state. It is intended to ensure that Maine people and businesses pay their fair share of taxes on products and services purchased outside the state. It helps to level the playing field between in-state and out-of-state sellers; the use tax is essential to Maine's tax structure.

The Maine Use Tax and the Maine Sales Tax are two distinct but linked components of the state's tax structure. While they have similar goals and apply to many of the same transactions, they differ in how and when they are collected. Retail sales in the state of Maine are subject to sales tax. When a vendor sells taxable products or services, they must collect sales tax from the consumer at the time of the transaction. The seller then regularly remits the collected tax to the state. On the other hand, the use tax is levied when a taxpayer purchases taxable things from outside Maine for use, consumption, or storage within the state.

How to Calculate Maine Sales Tax for Businesses

Detailed guide on how to calculate sales tax

In Maine, there are a few processes for calculating sales tax:

  • Determine whether or not the product or service is subject to sales tax.
  • Calculate the taxable sales amount.
  • Determine the sales tax amount.
  • Calculate the total amount owed.

Helpful online tools and resources

There are several online tools and services available to help businesses calculate Maine sales tax:

  • Maine Revenue Services (MRS) Website: The MRS website contains a wealth of information about sales tax rules, exemptions, rates, and filing procedures.
  • Online Sales Tax Calculator: There are several online sales tax calculators for Maine sales tax. These calculators allow you to enter the sales amount and calculate the sales tax instantly.
  • Point of Sale (POS) Systems: If you use a POS system in your firm, check it is programmed to calculate sales tax appropriately. Most modern POS systems include tax computation functions that can be configured to apply the appropriate sales tax rates.

Information on tax return deadlines and penalties for late payment

The reporting periods can be monthly, quarterly, or annual. The following are the general deadlines:

  • Monthly filers: Sales tax returns must be filed on or by the 15th of the following month. For example, the return for January sales is required by February 15.
  • Quarterly filers: Quarterly filers must file their sales tax returns by the 15th of the month after the end of the quarter. For example, the first-quarter return (January to March) is due on April 15.
  • Annual Filers: Sales taxes are due on or before February 15 of the following year.

Recent Changes and Future of Maine Sales Tax

Explanation of any recent changes to Maine's tax policies

Tax rules can be updated and amended regularly, so it is best to contact the most recent official sources, such as the Maine Revenue Services or the state legislature, to acquire the most accurate and up-to-date information on any changes that may have occurred.

Expert opinions on future changes and their potential impacts on the Maine sales tax rate

Expert perspectives on probable future adjustments to the Maine sales tax rate:

  • Revenue requirements: The state's revenue requirements could influence changes in the sales tax rate.

  • Economic factors: Economic variables, such as inflation, changes in consumer purchasing patterns, or adjustments in the business landscape, can all affect tax policies.

  • Political factors: The political atmosphere and public sentiment can affect tax policy decisions. Public opinion, lobbying efforts, and elected officials' priorities can all influence talks about tax rates, including the sales tax.

  • Regional and national trends: Tax laws in neighboring states or at the federal level may affect Maine's tax decisions. 


In conclusion, Maine's tax laws affect the state's economy, businesses, and inhabitants. Individuals and organizations must continue to educate themselves on these tax regulations to efficiently navigate the tax landscape, fulfill their obligations, and make educated financial decisions. Residents and businesses may optimize their tax circumstances and contribute to Maine's general growth and success by staying educated and getting professional advice when necessary.

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