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Click here for application for sales tax exemption for the sale of artistic works

Buy Art Exempt from State Sales Tax in Rhode Island

Making Rhode Island a destination for the arts


IMPORTANT INFORMATION for artists and creative businesses who have received the sales tax exemption

Click here for a document that can help you fill out the 2014 annual Reconciliation Form from the Division of Taxation

Click here to RSVP for a workshop on January 20. 2015 with Taxation to help in filling out this form

Click here for an image you can download and drop into your website and other promotional materials regarding the sales tax exemption


In February 2013 Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon Fox brought together more than 100 people from the arts community, government and business — two days after a devastating blizzard — to discuss the role the arts and culture could play in our state’s economic development strategy. Making the sale of art throughout our state exempt from state sales tax was one of the recommendations coming out of the 2013 Arts Charrette.

See article from December 2, 2013 Wall Street Journal on this initiative.

In its 2013 legislative session the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill which Governor Chafee signed into law, establishing Rhode Island as the “first state in the nation” to permit the sale of original and limited edition works of art exempt from state sales tax, starting December 1, 2013.

By declaring Rhode Island the “State of the Arts”, our state policymakers seek to promote the Ocean State as a cultural destination. The General Assembly called on the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) to work together with the State Division of Taxation, state and regional tourism agencies, chambers of commerce, local governments and others to use this tax incentive to help make Rhode Island a destination for an arts-buying public. 

How it all works

All original and limited edition works of art sold in the State of Rhode Island is exempt from state sales tax, starting December 1, 2013.  The following describes what art is covered under this exemption, who may sell it, and what we mean by “limited edition” works of art.

According to the law, the following works of art are covered:

  1. A book or other writing;
  2. A play;
  3. A musical composition;
  4. A painting, print, photograph or other like picture;
  5. A sculpture;
  6. Traditional and fine crafts;
  7. The creation of a film;
  8. The creation of a dance

For sales tax purposes, the most likely art forms will be visual arts and crafts.

The focus of the law relates to fine arts, and specifically states that the exemption does not apply to any piece or performance “created or executed for industry oriented, commercial or related production.”  So, fine art photography would qualify.  Commercial photography (for example, wedding photography or photographs taken as part of a commercial assignment) would not qualify.

Crafts are defined as art objects, either utilitarian or decorative, that are made by hand.Examples of traditional and fine crafts are textile art, woodworking, basketmaking, jewelry making, furniture making, metalsmithing, ceramics and pottery, and so on.

Works of art are permanent objects, not items designed or intended as a consumable. While we thoroughly respect the artistic intent and effort that goes into making candles or soaps, these items are not tax exempt.

Who may sell these works? And where?

The law covers  the sale of art in Rhode Island.  That sale can take place in traditional spaces, like an art gallery.  It can take place in less traditional places, like artist studios and coffee shops or restaurants, or in temporary spaces devoted to the sale of art or dealing in art, such as “pop-up galleries” or art festivals. The work itself can be sold by the artist or by a business in Rhode Island representing the artist.

The work must be sold in Rhode Island, but does not need to be the work of a Rhode Island artist in order to qualify for the sales tax exemption.

What qualifies as a “limited edition work of art”?

This law provides an exemption to works of art, and not to work that is mass produced or of a commercial nature.
An “original work of art” is defined as “the creation of a solitary work, conceived and produced by the  artist and author or under their direction, not intended for multiple or mass production.” 

A “limited edition” work of art is defined as “the creation of a solitary work, conceived and produced by the artist or under their direction, which is intended for limited reproduction, signed and numbered by the artist.”

The key phrase is “signed and numbered by the artist.”  This implies that the work is produced “under [the] direction” of the artist—rather than mass-produced — and is a “limited reproduction”.

A common example would be giclée prints, high quality digital reproductions of original works of art.  These prints would need to be created under the direction of the artist, intended for limited reproduction, and signed and numbered by the artist.

For poets and writers, the mass production and sale of their work through commercial bookstores would not be covered, but self-published and direct sales by authors would be exempt.

For further information, or to discuss specific examples of work or definitions of "limited edition", contact Randall.Rosenbaum@arts.ri.gov