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Buyers Beware

  • Out-of-state businesses and Internet vendors often falsely advertise that they sell cigarettes “tax free”. However, Pennsylvania requires any person who purchases cigarettes outside the state and brings them into Pennsylvania for use to pay the Department of Revenue the appropriate cigarette excise tax and use tax. This also applies to cigarettes purchased from Native American reservations.
  • Businesses that sell cigarettes via interstate commerce are required by federal law (Jenkins Act, 15 U.S.C. 375) to report those sales to the destination state’s tax authority. Based on this act, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue receives information regarding shipments of untaxed cigarettes into Pennsylvania. This information is used by the Department to help enforce cigarette tax compliance.
  • Cigarette stamping agents, wholesalers, retailers and vending machine operators must be licensed. Purchasing cigarettes from licensed establishments in Pennsylvania ensures that the cigarettes are genuine and not counterfeit. Certain types of purchases may indicate that the seller is not properly licensed. For example: premium brand cigarette sold at unusually low prices; cigarettes sold at flea markets, by street vendors or from vehicles; cigarette packs with no cigarette tax stamps, out-of-state tax stamps or cigarette packs marked for “Export Only”.
  • If you purchase cigarettes over the Internet, you may not be getting the product you expect. Purchasing cigarettes from licensed establishments in Pennsylvania ensures the cigarettes are genuine and not counterfeit. The Revenue Department routinely inspects the state’s 21,000 licensed establishments. The department also employs enforcement agents to ensure Pennsylvania retailers are only selling products bearing the required Pennsylvania cigarette tax stamps.
  • You may have noticed that many cigarette Web sites no longer accept credit card payments. This is because the country’s largest credit card companies have policies prohibiting the use of credit cards for illegal transactions. The credit card companies partnered with the federal government and states across the country to prevent the illegal sale of cigarettes online. Virtually all sales of cigarettes over the Internet are illegal because the sellers violate one or more federal and state laws.