Foreign diplomats

Ambassadors or foreign consuls are exempt from the retail sales tax, with limitations. Diplomatic Tax Exemption Cards are issued by the U.S. Department of State. These cards use four distinct images on the cards (owl, buffalo, eagle, and deer) to indicate the level of tax exemption authorized by a particular Diplomatic Tax Exemption Card.

Please note that the exemption under this program may not apply to all types of purchases. (See below for procedures for purchasing all motorized vehicles under this program.)

See our Special Notice: Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program for more information.

Purchase of vehicles under the Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program

The Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) enforces the exemption of eligible foreign missions and their members from payment of any taxes when purchasing, leasing, registering, or titling a vehicle. All official and personal vehicle purchases by eligible foreign missions and their members must be authorized by OFM.

The purchaser must request that the dealer contact either the Tax and Customs Program Office of the Department of OFM or the appropriate OFM Regional Office for a determination of the tax-exempt status of the purchaser. These requests will only be accepted during normal business hours. A dealer will have two options for contacting OFM:

  1. Email: Dealers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California should send an email to OFM San Francisco - Emails must include the following information:
    1. Buyer's name.
    2. Type of purchase - official or personal.
    3. Buyer's Driver License Number, Personal Identification Number (PID), or date of birth.
    4. The mission or organization to which the buyer is assigned.
    5. The dealership's name, mailing address, and phone and fax numbers.
    6. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) assigned to the vehicle the mission or person is planning to purchase or lease
  2. Telephone: Dealers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California should contact OFM San Francisco at 415-744-2910.

OFM will determine the tax-exempt status of the purchaser and provide a letter to the dealer stating whether the purchaser is eligible for a sales or use tax exemption. If the inquiry is made by email, OFM will respond to the vendor's email with a letter, confirming the sales or use tax exemption. If the request is made by phone, OFM will fax the dealer a similar letter concerning the foreign mission or member's tax-exempt status. If the tax exemption is denied, the purchaser must pay sales tax on the purchase of the vehicle.

Types of vehicles included under the Diplomatic Tax Exemption Program

These tax exemption procedures for vehicles apply to all motorized vehicles purchased or leased by foreign missions or their members. This includes, but is not limited to, the following vehicles: automobiles, vans, trucks, RVs, trailers, motorcycles, mopeds, buses, sailboats, motor boats, yachts, "jet skis," personal water crafts, airplanes, and helicopters.

Vehicle registration

Diplomatic missions and their members, including dependents, are required to register all vehicles that they own or lease with the OFM Diplomatic Vehicle Office. At the time or purchase, all original ownership documents must be submitted to the Diplomatic Motor Vehicle Office for proper vehicle registration. Auto dealers should treat this transaction as an out of state registration. OFM will issue a registration card and federal license plates once proper documentation is received. Also, a title will be sent to the indicated lien holder to protect the interest of the lender.