Caterers must pay retail sales tax on certain items they use in the course of providing catering services. This is true even though some items may be listed separately on the customer’s invoice as “rentals.”
Generally, purchases that will be used exclusively for rental are considered purchases for resale and exempt from retail sales tax. This is also true for items rented or leased exclusively for resale.
However, in the case of caterers, they are not renting out items. Rather, caterers are considered to be the consumer that uses these items to provide their catering service.
Purchases or rentals of multiple-use items such as tables and chairs, stainless flatware, glasses, ceramic dishes and cups, and cloth tablecloths or napkins by a caterer are not purchases or rentals for resale. The caterer is the consumer of such items and must pay retail sales tax at the time they purchase or rent such items.
Single use items
Purchases by a caterer of single-use items that are consumed or kept by the customer or discarded after each event, are purchases for resale exempt from sales tax. Examples include: paper napkins and other paper products, balloons, flowers, taxable food products, and any other items that can or will be used only once. When purchasing these types of items, the caterer may give a reseller permit to the vendor to document the tax exempt nature of the purchase.