Is kitty’s cuisine taxed in the Big Apple? A breakdown of NY’s tax laws on cat food.


New York is one of the top states for pet ownership, with an estimated 1.1 million pets living in New York City alone according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. [1] Nearly 50% of households in New York state have at least one pet. [2]

With so many pet owners across the state, New Yorkers spend billions of dollars a year on pet care and supplies. According to the American Pet Products Association, New York residents spent over $5 billion on their pets in 2021. This includes expenses like food, treats, toys, vet care, grooming and other pet services.


Tax Regulations on Pet Food in NY

In New York State, most pet food purchases are exempt from sales tax according to the state’s tax regulations. This includes dry food, canned food, and most treats and supplements for cats, dogs, and other common household pets like fish and birds.

New York State Tax Bulletin ST-930 clarifies that pet food is exempt when sold for household pets like cats, dogs, fish, birds, hamsters and other animals commonly kept as pets. However, pet food sold for other animals like horses, livestock, poultry or wild animals is taxable.

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Publication 750 also states that pet food and supplies sold for household pets are generally exempt from sales tax when purchased at grocery and pet supply stores. This includes pet food, treats, vitamins, medications, kitty litter, and other common pet supplies.

So for typical pet owners buying cat or dog food off the shelf at retail locations, no sales tax will be charged at checkout. However specialty pet food or supplies may be taxable in some cases.

Tax Rates Depending on Location

New York State has a 4% sales tax on pet food, but local jurisdictions can add additional sales tax on top of the state tax.

In New York City, the total sales tax rate on pet food is 8.875%. This includes the 4% state sales tax plus an additional 4.875% sales tax levied by New York City.

In other parts of New York State outside of NYC, total sales tax rates on pet food generally range from 4% to 8% depending on the county and city.

For example, the total sales tax rate on pet food in Buffalo is 8% (4% state plus 4% Erie County tax). In Albany, the total rate is 7% (4% state plus 3% Albany local tax).

So New York City has one of the highest total sales tax rates on pet food in the state. Pet owners in NYC pay nearly double the sales tax rate on pet food compared to other parts of New York.

Check your local jurisdiction’s sales tax laws to determine the exact total tax rate that will apply to pet food purchases in your area.

Tax-Exempt Pet Food Purchases

Certain pet food purchases in New York may be exempt from sales tax under specific circumstances. According to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, veterinarians do not need to charge sales tax on pet food sold to the following tax-exempt purchasers:

– Government agencies

– Diplomatic missions

– Tax exempt nonprofit organizations with a valid Certificate of Authority (COA)

Pet food purchased with Food Stamps is also exempt from sales tax in New York. Additionally, prescription pet food recommended by a veterinarian to treat illness or injury may qualify for tax exemption under New York law (1).

To claim a sales tax exemption on pet food in NY, customers must provide the required documentation to verify their tax-exempt status. This usually involves presenting a valid exemption certificate or documentation from the Food Stamp program.

So in summary, certain government, diplomatic, nonprofit, Food Stamp, and veterinary-prescribed pet food purchases can qualify for sales tax exemption in New York, given proper documentation.


Estimating the Tax on Pet Food

The cost of pet food is a major factor in estimating the total sales tax owed on cat food purchases in New York. According to The Cost of Owning a Cat in Each State (, cat owners in New York spend an average of $235 per year just on pet food. With New York’s average combined state and local sales tax rate of 8.52% (according to the Tax Foundation), this would amount to about $20 in sales tax on pet food per year.

Of course, actual pet food costs can vary greatly depending on the type of food, brand, and other factors. For example, The Cost of Cat Parenthood in 2023 ( estimates that cat food costs range from $180 to $870 per year. Using these numbers, estimated New York sales tax on pet food would range from about $15 to $74 annually.

To calculate the tax, simply multiply the total amount spent on pet food by 0.0852. So if total pet food costs are $500 for the year, the estimated sales tax would be $500 x 0.0852 = $42.60. Being aware of these estimates can help New York cat owners budget for the taxes they’ll owe on pet food each year.

Saving on Pet Food Taxes

There are several ways pet owners can save money on pet food taxes in New York:

Buying pet food in bulk is one of the best ways to save. Warehouse stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s offer large bags of dry food and cases of canned food at discounted per-pound or per-can prices. Buying in bulk means fewer trips to the store throughout the year, saving both time and tax dollars.

Opting for store-brand pet foods is another money-saving strategy. Store brands like Kirkland Signature at Costco or Member’s Mark at Sam’s Club offer quality ingredients at lower price points than national brands. Store brands can offer 20-30% savings compared to premium pet foods.

Shopping online can also yield pet food tax savings., Amazon, and other online retailers offer discounted prices on pet foods and don’t charge sales tax on orders shipped outside of New York. Signing up for repeat delivery subscriptions can also help lower costs over time.

Checking for coupons and sales, splitting large bags with friends, and sticking to a pet food budget are other smart ideas for reducing pet food taxes.

Benefits of Pet Food Taxes

The revenue generated from sales tax on pet food purchases in New York can provide benefits to the state and its residents. Though many pet owners would like to see pet food exempted from sales tax, the tax revenue is used to fund various state programs and services.

One of the main benefits is that the tax revenue from pet food sales contributes to New York’s general fund. The state’s budget relies heavily on sales tax revenue to support public education, healthcare, transportation infrastructure, public safety, and more. By taxing pet food purchases, the state can help pay for these vital services that residents depend on.

Some of the pet food tax revenue may also be allocated specifically to animal welfare programs run by the state. These could include services such as low-cost veterinary care and pet food banks for low-income families, trap-neuter-return programs for community cats, and shelters that rescue and rehome homeless pets. Though a small portion of the overall revenue, earmarking some funds for animal services can support New York’s vulnerable pet populations.

The sales tax on pet food also helps ensure out-of-state buyers pay their share when purchasing pet food in New York. This levels the playing field for New York pet stores and companies who must collect sales tax from all buyers. The state avoids lost revenue from non-resident purchasers.

While the sales tax represents an additional cost at checkout, the revenue allows New York to provide vital services and programs that benefit residents, including pet owners. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of taxing pet food, but the income supports many state expenditures.

The Pet Food Tax Debate

There is an ongoing debate around whether pet food should be taxable. Some argue that pet food should be tax-exempt since feeding pets is a necessity, while others believe tax revenue from pet food sales is needed to fund government services.

Those in favor of removing pet food taxes make the case that pets are dependent on their owners, so feeding them is not discretionary spending. Taxing pet food could place an unfair burden on pet owners, especially lower-income households. There are also concerns that taxing pet food could lead to an increase in abandoned or neglected pets if owners struggle to afford food costs.

However, proponents of pet food taxes argue that exempting pet food from sales tax would mean a loss in revenue that states rely on to fund schools, infrastructure, and other public services. They contend that pet food is a consumer good, not a necessity for human survival, so it’s reasonable to apply sales tax like other goods. There are also concerns that exempting pet food could open the door to exempting other categories currently subject to sales tax.

This remains an unresolved issue, as some states like Michigan have moved to eliminate pet food taxes while others like New York continue taxing pet food purchases [1]. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, so the debate over pet food taxes is likely to be an ongoing discussion.

Pet Food Tax Laws in Other States

Pet food tax laws vary greatly across the United States. Here’s a brief comparison of pet food taxes in other states:

In Florida, lawmakers proposed a tax break on pet food in 2023. If passed, it would permanently eliminate sales tax on pet food. Currently, pet food is taxable like other retail goods.

Michigan legislators considered exempting pet food from the state’s 6% sales tax in 2022, but it did not pass. Pet food remains fully taxable there.

Some states like Missouri and Iowa impose sales tax on pet food at the regular retail rate. Meanwhile, states like Oregon and Delaware have no sales tax at all.

The tax status of pet food varies, but many states treat it as a regular retail good subject to standard sales tax. Exemptions are occasionally proposed, but not yet common.


To summarize, there are varying tax rates on pet food purchases in New York State depending on the location. The sales tax can range from 4% to 8.875% depending on the county and city. Some exemptions apply for purchases made by veterinarians and animal shelters. While pet food taxes may seem insignificant on small purchases, they can add up over time for pet owners. The revenue generated from pet food taxes supports state and local government services. However, some argue this is an undue tax burden on pet owners providing basic care for their animals. The debate continues around the justification and fairness of sales tax on essential pet care items. New York’s pet food tax laws are similar to neighboring states, but rates and exemptions vary across the country. Consumers in New York should factor taxes into pet food costs when budgeting for their furry friends. Careful shopping and bulk purchases can help mitigate the extra taxes. Overall, being an informed consumer can help New York pet owners make the best choices within the state’s tax structure.

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