Caterers and Catering

Caterers and Catering
Are caterers required to collect sales tax?

Caterers must collect retail sales tax on their total charge to customers for catering services. This includes the charge for meals, equipment and decorations, as well as the catering service. Tax applies regardless of where the caterer prepares and/or serves the meals and whether the caterer uses ingredients that the customer provides.

The caterer must collect sales tax based on the location where the caterer serves or otherwise delivers the meals.

Wholesale sales

Caterers selling to persons other than consumers are making wholesale sales and may accept a reseller permit and report the sale under the Wholesaling B&O tax classification. Retail sales tax does not apply.

Do caterers have to pay sales tax on purchases?

Yes. Caterers must pay retail sales or use tax on purchases or rentals of items for their own use in the business. The caterer is providing a retail service and is considered the consumer of all tangible personal property used. The tax applies even if the caterer itemizes the charge to the customer for the use of the items.

Examples of taxable items:

  • Plates
  • Glasses
  • Linens
  • Serving utensils
  • Silverware
  • Decorations
  • Cooking equipment



Rev. 1/3/17


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO