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9 States That Don't Tax Over-the-Counter Medicines

Find out if your state gives you a break on everything from aspirin to zinc


spinner image arm and hand of a pharmacist holding out a bag that contains a prescription medication
Gregory Reid/Gallery Stock

Save for in Illinois, there is no state sales tax on prescription drugs, but the same isn’t true for over-the-counter medicines and remedies. Only a handful of states and Washington, D.C., give consumers a break on these products that many older Americans rely on to help maintain their health and wellness.

Meanwhile, 41 states impose a sales tax on OTC medicines. As for Illinois, it imposes a 1 percent sales tax on prescriptions and on nonprescription items claimed to have medicinal value, such as aspirin and cough medicine. The state otherwise charges a 6.5 percent sales tax.

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States That Don’t Tax OTC Medicines

spinner image united states map of the nine states that do not tax over the counter medications those states are texas minnesota florida vermont new york new jersey pennsylvania maryland and virginia
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1. Florida

Along with exempting remedies prescribed by a licensed health care provider, the Sunshine State has a long list of over-the-counter drugs exempt from the tax. They include aspirin and other pain relievers, bandages, antacids, eye drops, sinus relievers, skin medications, sleep aids and a lot more.

2. Maryland

Sales of nonprescription medicine, medical supplies and medical equipment are not taxed. The list is long and includes everything from nonprescription drugs to antiseptics.

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3. Minnesota

The North Star State does not tax over-the-counter drugs, but you won’t get a tax break on grooming and hygiene products.

4. New Jersey

The Garden State exempts all over-the-counter drugs prescribed by a doctor as well as many without a prescription. Like other states, it runs the gamut from aspirin to zinc.

5. New York

​Everything from antacids to cold and flu medicines is tax-free in the Empire State. The tax applies to most cosmetics and toiletries, but some are exempt, including dandruff shampoos and sunscreens with an SPF factor of 2 or more.

6. Pennsylvania

​Most nonprescription drugs and some toiletries are exempt from taxes in the Keystone State. The list includes toothpaste and toothbrushes, sunburn treatments and colostomy supplies.

7. Texas

​Any drug or medicine a person uses in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of a disease, illness, injury or pain is exempt from the state sales tax. This applies to over-the-counter medications if the package has a Drug Facts label from the Food and Drug Administration or if they are prescribed by a doctor.

8. Vermont

The Green Mountain State does not tax any nonprescription medicines used in the diagnosis or treatment to alleviate human suffering or to correct physical disabilities.

9. Virginia

​Any nonprescription medications purchased to cure, mitigate, treat or prevent diseases in people are exempt from the sales tax.

10. Washington, D.C.

Hearing aids, medical equipment and any medicines and drugs that contain at least one recognized medicine, pharmaceutical or drug listed as an active ingredient are exempt from sales tax.

How to save on OTC meds

​Whether you live in a state that taxes or doesn’t tax over-the-counter medicines and remedies, purchasing them can be cost-prohibitive for many households. The good news is there are several ways to save, including these four: 

1. Get a prescription. This applies to individuals living in the 41 states that tax OTC drugs. All of the states will exempt a drug it if is prescribed by a licensed health care provider, says Charlene Rhinehart, a certified public accountant and personal finance editor at GoodRx. To save more, Rhinehart says, get a prescription for a generic version of the OTC medicine. “Generic OTC medications are safe and just as effective as brand names with the same active ingredients, but typically cost less,” she says.

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2. Buy in bulk. If you take the medication frequently, Rhinehart says you can save purchasing the remedy in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. This strategy only works if you will use the medicine before the expiration date. The older the medicines, the more likely they are to lose efficacy.

3. Use pharmacy rewards programs. Most drugstore chains, from CVS to Walgreens, offer shoppers rewards programs where they can get money off on items in the store, including OTC medicine, says shopping expert Trae Bodge.

4. Shop around to save. Prices for medications can vary based on the city, store and whether you are purchasing it in person or online. As a result, it behooves you to price comparison shop to yield the most savings. “You may find that the cost of OTC meds is lower at warehouse club retail stores like Sam’s Club or a large chain like Walgreens than at a smaller, more boutique drugstore,” Rhinehart says. “This is because these larger stores can negotiate prices from suppliers in a way smaller, independent stores aren’t able to.” Buying online or in bulk may also be more cost-effective than shopping in person, she says.

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