First a little disclaimer; the content in this post is based on my own (extensive) research.  I am not a lawyer, accountant, or expert in the field of taxes or tax law.  So before making decisions for your own business practices you should consult a professional in this field.  Also, I live in Arizona, so the information I researched was for Arizona only, every state and city has its own rules regarding taxes so make sure you are following the rules for the city and state in which you practice photography.

With that out of the way, as I have grown my photography to include paid shoots for both individuals and businesses (i.e. created a business around photography) the unavoidable question of taxes came up.  The question being “As a photographer in Arizona, do I need to charge my clients sales tax on the images they buy?”  As is inevitable, that question led to more tax related questions.  I figured I can’t possibly be the only photographer in Arizona wondering about this.  So I am posting the results of my research into the questions I had.  Just keep in mind the first paragraph above and use these questions and answers as a guide for your own research and business decisions.

Question 1:

Do photographers in Arizona have to charge clients tax?

Answer 1:

Yes.  This took me quite a bit of time to find an answer to including a call to the AZ Department of Revenue where they had no idea.  However, I have now validated the answer with three independent sources, The Arizona Commerce Authority, the City of Phoenix and an Arizona based CPA, and am confident in the reply.  In regards to photography and sales tax the state of “Arizona does impose a transaction privilege (sales) tax on certain service-based activities, including photographer’s activities. The Arizona Department of Revenue taxes all of a photographer’s activities under the retail classification.”

Question 2:

Does that tax only apply to the finished photographs or are things like sitting fees, creative fees, and the like also taxable?

Answer 2:

Tax must be applied to ALL photography activities.  In the case of the City of Phoenix, where I live and work, their tax laws in this case are on par with the state of Arizona.  The city tax code states that tax must be applied to “All charges by a photographer resulting in the sale of a photograph (sitting charges, developing, making enlargements, retouching, etc.) for services that occur prior to transfer of tangible personal property…”

Question 3:

Does the answer to number 2 mean that if I am not selling a photograph I do not need to charge tax?  What if I am just selling a license giving someone the rights to use the photographs?

Answer 3:

My CPA expert says: “If you are granting the rights to use a photograph of yours to another business, they are paying you a licensing fee or royalty fee – and any money paid to you for licensing, royalties, etc is taxable.

Question 4:

Is there a difference between taxes for consumer clients versus business clients?

Answer 4:

Sometimes.  If you are selling to consumers taxes will generally always be involved.  For business clients, you would only not charge tax if the business you are selling to is not the final end user of the images.  In other words if you are selling to them so they can then turn around and resell the images to someone else, usually at a mark up.  In this case the business you sell to will charge the tax to the individuals they sell the images to.

14 Responses to “Do Arizona Photographers Need to Charge Sales Tax?”

  1. Everardo

    on April 29 2012

    Thanks fot the info, yet still the AZDOR can’t keep their own story right, depending on who you speak to I’ve received different answers and sounds like you heard the same as well? Also found this link helpful for collecting sales tax for PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEO PRODUCTION

  2. Mike

    on April 29 2012

    Hey Everardo,
    You’re welcome. I agree that the AZDOT and the City of Phoenix Treasury Dept don’t quite know how to handle questions like this. The person I called at the city just read word for word what was written on their site. But in any case I have confirmed, since this post, with several long time professional photographers in Phoenix that tax is required (as your link also confirms). But I am willing to bet that most photographers do not charge tax in Phoenix.

  3. adriane

    on January 10 2013

    Thank you for the awesome compilation of info!!! What about travel fees? i only charge a travel fee if it’s a certain mileage outside of where I live.

  4. Mike

    on January 10 2013

    You’re welcome Adriane. I do the same for travel. If it is outside of the metro area I live in, I charge mileage, but do not charge tax on the mileage.

  5. Shayla

    on March 13 2013

    What about use tax? What is it and does it apply to photography?

  6. Mike

    on March 13 2013

    Hi Shayla,
    I am not a tax expert, so before making any decisions based on what I have said in this blog you should consult your accountant. But, as I understand it, use tax does not apply to photography (in AZ). You can read more about use tax here:

  7. Gary

    on May 28 2013

    when we had our business in the old days the 70’s 80’s we never paid taxes on the photos we did however like everything in this state things have possible changed… what we did in those days was Photojournalistic…. now I do photos again however I am in a unique situation as to the point I am not allowed to charge anything for my photos because I am on disability

  8. Photography by Maria » Your Family Photographer for life! » Tax on SERVICES? What?

    on August 21 2013

    […] doing some more research, I came across Shutter Mike Photography’s Blog Post about it.  Here’s what he posted (note, I’m giving credit where credit is due…I […]

  9. James Pouliot

    on February 9 2014

    I also wonder about Workshops where you are not selling your photography but just educating. Is that taxable? I’m thinking of charging tax, just in case!

  10. Mike

    on February 9 2014

    Hi James,

    I am not certain on this. I am not a tax professional so you should check with your accountant or the AZ Dept of Revenue. I would think the answer is no because I have attended photography workshops in AZ before and do not believe I paid sales tax. But again, I would check with a higher authority to be sure.

  11. Kurtis Durfey

    on May 17 2014

    Here’s a link to the final findings from the AZDOR:

  12. Mike

    on May 17 2014

    Thank you!

  13. Steve Dreiseszun

    on May 20 2014

    Hi Mike,

    I found your blog post on TPT after doing some research for another new photographer. I’m a board member of the AZ/PHX Chapter of ASMP. In 2005/06, we were directly involved in this issue with the AZDOR. At that time, I was the Chapter president.

    We worked on the DOR “Administrative Review” of the industry in AZ then. Every 10 years or so, they review industries to see if TPT practices are up to date. After a lengthly process, they “reaffirmed” that there was no substantive change in how ‘sales tax’ was to be handled for photography, i.e that TPT is charged on the ENTIRE invoice. For us, it was a HUGE difference as there had been a great deal of misinformation, misunderstanding and just plain wrong assumptions.

    We initiated a bill in the AZ Legislature to change TPT and photography. It passed both the State House and Senate easily but was vetoed by the Governor.

    From that point, we’ve attempted to educate the community on proper TPT practices.

    The info you’ve presented is good. I’m pleased that you took the time to research and share.

    I’m happy to continue the conversation, online or personally. Don’t mess with this. It’s too expensive.

    One other point. Use Tax is a real responsibility for photographers. (Think camera/gear purchases via mail order). I’m not aware of that we are exempt.

  14. Mike

    on May 20 2014


    Thank you for your comment and sharing the history behind this. Much appreciated!

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