Under the 1963 Local Option Revenue Act (found in T.C.A. §§ 67-6-701, et seq.), any county by resolution of its legislative body, or any city or town by ordinance of its governing body, can levy the local sales tax at a combined rate up to 2.75 percent. T.C.A. § 67-6-702.
With certain exceptions, the local sales tax covers the same items as the state sales tax. The local tax, however, applies only to the first $1,600 of the sale or use of a single article of personal property. T.C.A. § 67-6-702(a)(1). What constitutes a “single article” is defined in T.C.A. § 67-6-702(d). Industrial and farm machinery and water sold to or used by manufacturers is taxed locally at 1/3 percent when the local tax rate is 1 percent or less and at 0.5 percent when the local rate exceeds 1 percent. T.C.A. § 67-6-702(b). Dealers with no location in this state may choose to pay, in lieu of the local option sales tax, a local tax at the rate of 2.25 percent of the sales price on all sales made in this state. T.C.A. § 67-6-702(f). Local tax on interstate telecommunication service subject to the tax is imposed at 1.5 percent, but interstate telecommunications services sold to businesses are exempt from local tax. Local tax with respect to intrastate telecommunications services, which are subject to state tax, is imposed at the rate of 2.5 percent. T.C.A. § 67-6-702(g).
How is Local Sales Tax Adopted?
The local sales tax is levied as a percentage of the sale price of a single article. To levy or increase a local option sales tax, the local government first passes an ordinance or resolution to levy the tax. Since the state Department of Revenue administers the sales tax and is usually the collector of the local tax, every resolution or ordinance levying or increasing a local sales tax must be sent to the Department or Revenue for review immediately after its adoption. Cities must provide it after the first reading. This will allow the department to check the resolution or ordinance to assure the validity of the levy. If the resolution or ordinance is not drafted properly, the department will refuse to collect the tax.
If the county has levied the tax at the maximum rate, no city in the county can levy a local sales tax. If the county has a sales tax of less than the maximum, a city can levy a tax equal to the difference between the county rate and the maximum. (Example: County has a tax of 2 percent. City could levy a municipal tax up to 0.75 percent, making the total combined rate inside the city no more than 2.75 percent.)
If a city levies an increase in the local sales tax rate above the county rate, the city ordinance is suspended for 40 days. If, during this period, the county legislative body adopts a resolution to levy a tax at least equal to the rate in the ordinance, the ordinance remains suspended until a countywide referendum is held.
If the countywide tax is approved, the ordinance is dead. But if the county tax is not approved, the city ordinance becomes effective, and the referendum is held inside the city. If the vote is favorable, the city tax is in effect.
If the county should later adopt a local sales tax increase, however, it would cancel out the city tax to the extent that the new county rate duplicates the city rate. In this event, the city will receive from the county tax the same amount it would have received from its own tax until the end of the city’s current fiscal year. T.C.A. § 67-6-703.