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Recently (Oct 2016) I flew from New York JFK to Brussels. While at JFK I bought a lipstick at the duty free shop. The lady saw my boarding pass and said that since I was flying to Belgium I had to pay tax.

Anyone know why?

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Duty and sales tax are two different items.

"Duty Free" means what you buy has not been charged duty for being imported into the USA (assuming it was made outside the country). But your purchase may still liable for local sales taxes.

"Tax & Duty Free" shopping is similar, but your purchases are not charged local sales tax.

One would guess the shop you visited was simply "duty free".

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    As far as I know, New York doesn't have tax-free shopping, unless you're a non-profit or government agency with an exemption certificate and the store is willing to take it (and most states don't exempt non-profits from sales tax). So yeah, hard to imagine what destination would count. Oct 9, 2016 at 2:54
  • @pnuts - I think Brussels had little to do with it, most likely everyone shopping in that store pays sales tax, and the OP just assumed flying internationally absolved them of sales tax.
    – user13044
    Oct 9, 2016 at 3:12
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    The only weird thing is that the Peace Bridge people say their duty-free shop in New York doesn't charge sales tax. Not sure how that works. Oct 9, 2016 at 3:21
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    @ZachLipton - Businesses can negotiate tax breaks with state and local governments. Perhaps the Peace Bridge people found some angle to pitch being sales tax free.
    – user13044
    Oct 9, 2016 at 3:42
  • The Peace Bridge company could also be eating the sales tax/VAT. They're paying but not obviously passing it on to the purchaser.
    – mkennedy
    Jan 27, 2017 at 17:39

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