The Wisconsin State Sales Tax

Noah Williams

Executive Summary:

In addition to income taxes, which were discussed in my previous brief, the other main source of general purpose revenue for the state of Wisconsin is the general sales tax. The state sales tax rate has been set at 5% since 1982, with the majority of counties in the state levying an additional 0.5% tax. The general sales tax exempts most services and a number of goods from taxation. Some of these goods, like gasoline, are subject to their own dedicated tax, while many, like groceries, are untaxed. I estimate that currently just under half of consumption in the state is subject to the general sales tax, a share which has increased in recent years with the taxation of online shopping. In recent years, state general sales tax revenue has been less than 2% of personal income in the state, averaging around $1,800 annually per household. While income taxes in Wisconsin remain on the higher end of the distribution of state tax rates across the country, Wisconsin sales taxes are on the low end. This is especially true when considering combined state and local sales taxes, where according to the Tax Foundation, Wisconsin ranks 43rd highest in the United States.

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