Original Issuance Date: July 17, 1973 

Last Revision Date: June 28, 2021  

 I. Background

On January 1, 1997, the current Wisconsin sales and use tax was equal to 5% of gross receipts. In addition, many Wisconsin counties have instituted a 0.5% county sales and use tax. Finally, a 0.1% stadium sales and use tax applies in Milwaukee, Racine, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties. Current rates can generally be found in the Wisconsin Tax Bulletin, which is published quarterly by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) and can be accessed on their Web page at https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/ISE/wtb-Home.aspxA list of the counties that have enacted the 0.5% local sales and use tax can be located on DOR’s Web page at Pub 201 Wisconsin Sales and Use Tax Information — January 2019 (see page 97). 

II. Constraints

Sections 77.51 through 77.55, Wisconsin Statutes 

Section Tax 11.05 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code 

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publication 201, Wisconsin Sales and Use Tax Information 

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publication 204, Sales and Use Tax Information for Colleges, Universities and Technical Colleges 

Wisconsin Tax Bulletin (quarterly guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue) 

III. Policy

A. Purchases

Purchases by Wisconsin governmental units, including the University of Wisconsin System, are generally exempt from Wisconsin sales and use tax under s. 77.54(9a)(a), Wis. Stats,., and Section 11.05(4)(b) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. In addition, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue has issued the University of Wisconsin System a Certificate of Exempt Status (CES). To avoid payment of sales and use tax on purchases, UW institutions should provide vendors with this CES number.

B. Sales of Goods and Services

Each institution is responsible for carefully reviewing its operations and procedures to ensure that sales tax is collected where required and that sales tax payments are properly made to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Individual institutions will be held responsible for any penalties or other assessments made for failure to collect and deposit sales tax. The summary below notes the tax status of the more common sales transactions at UW institutions. Please refer to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Publications for transactions not listed in this summary. 


  • Food and food products sold for consumption on the premises 
  • Food service contracts (except for those specifically excluded below) 
  • Beer, liquor, soft drinks, gum, candies and confections 
  • Clothing, such as UW sweatshirts and athletic apparel 
  • Publications, pamphlets, magazines and books 
  • Pens, pencils and miscellaneous supplies 
  • Gifts, cards, souvenirs, etc., in hospital and union gift shops or other areas 
  • Surplus property and scrap, including old rental equipment, except registered vehicles 
  • Building plans and specifications, maps, etc. 


  • Admission to athletic, amusement and entertainment events, e.g., football games, plays, concerts, movies, etc. 
  • Fees, dues, etc., paid for access or use of recreational, athletic or amusement facilities or equipment 
  • Catering services 
  • Reproduction, duplication and photographic services 


  • Food intended for home consumption 
  • Food service contracts sold to an undergraduate, graduate or professional school student enrolled for credit at your institution who will personally consume the food items purchased 
  • Food service contracts sold to NFL football teams 
  • Newspapers and subscriptions to periodicals and magazines 
  • Items sold to farmers for farming purposes 
  • Items sold to the United States, its unincorporated agencies and instrumentalities 
  • Items sold to other state agencies, other university departments, and elementary and secondary schools 
  • Items sold for use outside of Wisconsin which are delivered to an agent for shipment out of the state 


  • Laundry services only when performed in self-service, coin-operated machines. Sales from machines using tickets or tokens are not exempt 
  • Building space rentals 
  • Transportation of people 
  • University I.D. cards/debit cards, including replacement cards