How to Calculate the Sales Tax on Multiple Items

by Jason Gillikin

Sales taxes are assessed on the total sale price of taxable items. If you purchase several items at once, the tax is computed on the total sale, not on each item individually. Although there are a few factors to consider, including multiple taxes and tax-exempt purchases, the general procedure for calculating the sales tax on multiple items is straightforward.

Step 1

Add the actual sale price of every taxable item in a transaction.

Step 2

Multiply the sum by the tax rate. For example, a 6 percent tax rate requires you to multiply the final sale price by 0.06 to arrive at the sales tax. Round to the nearest penny.

Step 3

Add the tax to the sum of all the items' final sale price to arrive at the tender price. For example, items totaling $50 result in a sales tax of $3 (at 6 percent) for a final bill of $53.


  • Some places have several applicable sales taxes. For example, some California cities have a city sales tax in addition to the state tax. Compute each tax separately then add them to the item total to arrive at the final tender; do not compute sales tax on a total that already includes a sales tax.


  • Each state's list of items subject to a sales tax vary. Many states do not tax food, for example.

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