Original Issuance Date: July 17, 1973

Last Revision Date: November 14, 2023

1.     Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to outline the responsibilities of the University of Wisconsin (UW) universities in terms of paying and collecting state and county sales and use taxes.

2.     Responsible UW System Officer

Vice President for Finance and Administration

3.     Scope and Institutional Responsibilities

This policy applies to all UW universities and UW System Administration. UW Universities must develop their own procedures to operationalize this System policy. Universities may also develop guidance to support the System policy and campus procedure.

4.     Background

On January 1, 1997, the current Wisconsin sales and use tax was equal to 5% of gross receipts. In addition, many Wisconsin areas have also instituted additional rates for county sales and use tax, city sales and use tax, and/or stadium sales and use tax. A list of the current areas that have enacted the 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). Current rate updates can also be found in the Wisconsin Tax Bulletin, which is published quarterly by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) and can be accessed on their webpage.

5.     Definitions

None listed.

6. Policy Statement

A. Purchases

Purchases by Wisconsin governmental units, including the University of Wisconsin System, are generally exempt from Wisconsin sales and use tax under Wis. Stats. § 77.54(9a)(a) and Wis. Admin. Code § 11.05(4)(b). 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.

I. Taxable Goods

    • 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.

II. Taxable Services

  • 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

III. Nontaxable Goods

  • 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.

IV. Nontaxable Services

  • 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]


7.  Related Documents

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)

Vehicle Milage Log

8.  Policy History

Revision 4: November 14, 2023

Revision 3: June 28, 2021

Revision 2: February 13, 2017

Revision 1: January 2, 1998

First approved: July 17, 1973

9.  Scheduled Review

November 2028