Iowa Sales and Use Tax on Manufacturing and Processing


This publication addresses the taxability of purchases of tangible personal property and services for the manufacturing industry. It should be used only as a general guide. For answers to specific questions, contact Taxpayer Services at 1-800-367-3388 (Iowa, Omaha, Rock Island, Moline) or 515-281-3114 or
e-mail a tax specialist.

Do You Need a Sales Tax Permit?

Manufacturers who also sell the tangible personal property they produce to the final consumer should call Taxpayer Services to see if they need an Iowa sales tax permit.

Manufacturers who do not sell to the final consumer do not need sales tax permits.

Machinery, Equipment, and Computer Exemption

Sales, leases, or rentals of the following are exempt from tax:

a. Machinery, equipment, and computers directly and primarily used in processing by a manufacturer.

b. Machinery, equipment, and computers directly and primarily used to maintain a manufactured product's integrity or to maintain any unique environmental conditions required for the product.

c. Machinery, equipment and computers directly and primarily used to maintain unique environmental conditions required for other machinery, equipment, or computers used in processing by a manufacturer.

d. Test equipment directly and primarily used by a manufacturer in processing to control the quality and specifications of a product.

e. Machinery, equipment, or computers directly and primarily used in research and development of new products or processes of processing.

f. Computers used in processing or storage of data or information by an insurance company, financial institution, or commercial enterprise.

g. Machinery, equipment, and computers directly and primarily used in recycling or reprocessing of waste products.

h. Pollution control equipment used by a manufacturer. It is not necessary that the equipment be "directly and primarily" used in any kind of processing.

i. Materials used to construct or self-construct any machinery, equipment, or computer, the sale of which is exempted by paragraphs "a" through "h" above.

j. Exempt sales of fuel and electricity. Sales of fuel or electricity consumed by machinery, equipment, or computers used in any exempt manner described in paragraphs "a," "b," "c," "d," "e," "g," and "h" of this subrule are exempt from tax. Sales of electricity consumed by computers used in the manner described in paragraph "f" remain subject to tax.

Manufacturer Defined

A manufacturer is any person, firm, or corporation who purchases, receives, or holds personal property for the purpose of adding to its value by any process of manufacturing, refining, purifying, combining of different materials, or packing of meats with an intent to sell at a gain or profit. It is not necessary that a person be primarily engaged in an activity listed in the definition of manufacturer in order to qualify as a manufacturer for sales or use tax purposes.

Example:  A retail store engaged in selling paint to customers uses a mixing/shaking machine to blend the proper color of paint. While primarily a retailer, the paint store is finishing the process started at the paint manufacturing plant. The paint store qualifies for sales tax exemption on the purchase of the mixing/shaking machine, because it is used in an activity included in the definition of a manufacturer.

Contract manufacturer

A contract manufacturer is considered to be a manufacturer. A contract manufacturer is a manufacturer that
processes tangible personal property on the behalf of other manufacturers. A contract manufacturer does not sell the tangible personal property it processes on the behalf of another manufacturer.

Examples of Businesses that Qualify as Manufacturers:

Quarrying and Mining

Quarrying and mining businesses are considered manufacturers with respect to activities performed after raw materials are severed from the ground. These activities can include crushing, washing, sizing, and blending of aggregate materials.

Company A owns and operates a gravel pit. It sells the gravel extracted from the pit to others who use the
gravel for surfacing roads and as an ingredient in concrete. Company A removes overlay and raw gravel from the pit. It then transports the gravel to a plant where washing and sizing of the gravel takes place. Company A is a manufacturer, but only with respect to those activities which occur after it severs the gravel from the ground.

Examples of Businesses that are NOT Generally Considered Manufacturers:

Machinery Defined

Machinery is any mechanical, electrical, or electronic device designed and used to perform some function and to produce a certain effect or result.

Machinery Includes:

Machinery Does NOT Include:

Equipment Defined

Equipment is any tangible personal property used in an operation or activity by a manufacturer in a
manufacturing environment.

Equipment Includes:

Computer Defined

Computer means stored program processing equipment and all devices fastened to it such as:

Computer Does NOT Include:

See Iowa Sales Tax on Computers.

Pollution Control Equipment Defined

Pollution Control Equipment Does NOT Include

Directly and Primarily Defined

To be exempt, machinery, equipment, and computers must not only be used in processing, but must be used directly and primarily in processing.

Property is directly used only if it is used to initiate, sustain, or terminate the transformation of any activity.

To determine if property is directly and primarily used, consider the following:

Just because a particular piece of property may be essential to the activity because its use is required by law or practical necessity does not, of itself, mean that the property is directly used.

The following examples are not directly and primarily used in manufacturing and processing; machinery and
equipment is taxable when used:

Processing Defined

In general, processing begins with receiving or producing raw materials and ends at the point the products are delivered for shipment or transferred from the manufacturer. This is sometimes referred to as “door-to-door processing.”

Receiving or producing raw materials means activities performed on tangible personal property only. Activities performed on real property are not exempt for manufacturing purposes.

Processing Includes:

Example 1 - processing begins
Company A manufactures fine furniture. It owns a grove of walnut trees which it uses as raw material. Employees cut the trees, transport the logs to the factory, offload them, and store the logs in a warehouse to begin curing the wood before taking it to the sawmill.

Processing begins when the logs are loaded at the grove for transport to the factory.

The same company also buys mahogany logs from a supplier in Honduras. Company A uses its own equipment to offload the logs from railroad cars at its manufacturing facility. It then transports, stores, and saws the logs.

Processing begins when Company A offloads the logs from the railroad cars.

Example 2 - middle stages of processing

Company C is a microbrewery. It uses a variety of kettles, vats, tanks, tubs, and other containers to mix, cook, ferment, settle, age, and store the beer it brews. It also uses a variety of pipes and pumps to move the beer among the various containers involved in brewing.

All stages of this brewing are part of processing. Transforming the raw materials from one state to another, such as fermenting and aging, is part of processing. Simply holding the materials in an existing state, such as storage of hops in a bin or storage of beer prior to bottling, is also a part of processing. Any movement of the beer between containers is an activity which is a part of processing, whether this movement is an integral part of the production of beer or not.

Example 3 - end of processing

After the brewing process is complete, Company C places its beer in various containers, stores it, and moves it to its customers by a common carrier that picks up the beer at the brewery. The following are still part of processing: C’s activities of placing the beer into bottles, cans, and kegs; storing it after packaging; and moving the beer by use of a forklift to the common carrier’s pickup site.

Replacement Parts and Supplies

Replacement Parts - Exempt

A part that meets the requirements below is exempt from tax.

A replacement part is any machinery or equipment part substituted for another part that is:

The part must:

Supplies - Taxable

Supplies are not replacement parts.

Examples of taxable supplies:

Fuel Used in Processing

Fuel Defined

Fuel includes heat, steam, electricity, gas, water, or any other tangible personal property consumed in creating heat, power, steam, or for generating electric current.

Fuel Consumed in Processing - Exempt

Fuel consumed in processing is exempt from Iowa sales and use tax.

Fuel consumed in processing means fuel that is directly applied in the actual processing of tangible personal property.

Fuel to Operate Exempt Machinery, Equipment, and Computers - Exempt

If the machinery, equipment, or computer is exempt to a manufacturer, the fuel used to operate or run the machinery, equipment, or computer is also exempt.

Fuel for General Purposes - Taxable

Fuel used for the purpose of general heating, ventilating or lighting of buildings – even if the buildings are warehouses, processing plants, or offices – and any use other than that of direct processing is taxable.

Exempt and Taxable Fuel

When practical, electricity consumed as power or used directly in processing must be separately metered and separately billed by the supplier.

If it is impractical to separately meter and bill the fuel, the manufacturer must give the supplier an exemption certificate that shows what percentage of the fuel is exempt. The exemption certificate must be supported by a study showing how the percentage was developed. The study must show the taxable use and the nontaxable use to correctly report the exempt percentage.

See these links for additional information:   Worksheet and Example for Determining Electricity used in Processing / Agriculture      Worksheet and Example for Determining Natural Gas used in Processing / Agriculture

Fuel Exemption Certificate

A Sales Tax Exemption Certificate for Energy used in Processing and Agriculture (pdf) is given by a buyer to a seller when making tax free purchases. The seller has the right to demand additional documentation be attached to the certificate, as long as it is reasonably necessary to support the claim of exemption. This could be an electrical consultant’s study or a document prepared by the purchaser.

The purchaser does not have to file a certificate or attach documentation every time a transaction takes place unless a substantial change in the operation has occurred.

A buyer who makes tax-free purchases and then uses or otherwise disposes of the fuel in a taxable manner is liable for the sales tax and must remit that tax directly to the Department.

See Appendix A for information on how to calculate a fuel exemption.

Recycling or Reprocessing Waste Products

Recycling Defined

Recycling means any process by which waste – or materials which would otherwise become waste – are collected, separated, or processed and revised or returned for use in the form of raw materials or products. The term includes the composting of yard waste.

Recycling does not include any form of reprocessing or energy recycling.

Recycling or reprocessing ends when waste or a material which would become waste is in the form of a raw material or in the form of a product.

Machinery, Equipment, and Computers Used in Recycling

The sale or rental of machinery, equipment, computers, and their replacement parts are exempt from tax if they are used directly and primarily in the recycling or reprocessing of waste products. This includes equipment used in the movement of property which is integral to recycling or reprocessing.

Exempt if used directly and primarily in the recycling or reprocessing of waste products:


Recycling or Reprocessing - Examples

Equipment used when recycling or reprocessing begins is exempt.

Example - collecting waste

A vehicle used directly and primarily for collecting waste is exempt if the truck is directly and primarily used in recycling and not, for instance, in hauling garbage to a landfill.

Example - separating waste

Machinery or equipment used to separate waste from material to be recycled or reprocessed or used to separate various forms of materials which will be reprocessed, such as glass and aluminum, may be exempt as the first step in processing.

Equipment used in an operation or series of operations that do not actually recycle or reprocess waste may be exempt.


An endless belt which moves aluminum cans from a machine where they are shredded to a machine where the shredded aluminum is crushed into blocks is exempt.

Equipment used after recycling or reprocessing ends is taxable.


A corporation purchases a machine that grinds logs, stumps, pallets, crates, and other waste wood into wood chips. After grinding, the wood chips are sold and transported to purchasers to various sites where the chips are dumped and spread out over the ground for use in erosion control. The machine that grinds the wood chips is used in recycling. The truck that transports the wood chips from the machine to the sites is not used in reprocessing. Recycling ends at the time the chips are placed in the truck because they are in the form in which they will be sold for use other than as a raw material in manufacturing.

Research and Development

The sale or rental of machinery, equipment, and computers used in research and development is exempt from tax.

Machinery, equipment, and computers are used directly in research and development only if they are used in actual experimental or laboratory activity that qualifies as research and development.

Research and Development Defined

Research and development means experimental or laboratory activity whose ultimate goal must be the development of new products or processes of processing.

Research and Development does NOT Include:


Frontier Hybrid, Inc., maintains a research and development laboratory to develop a corn plant. It purchases the following items: a computer which will process data relating to the genetic structure of the various corn plants which Frontier Hybrid is testing, an electron microscope for examining the structure of corn plant genes, a steam cleaner for cleaning rugs in the laboratory offices, and a calculator for use by the laboratory director’s secretary. The computer and the microscope are directly used in the research; the steam cleaner and the calculator only indirectly used. Therefore, purchase of the computer and microscope is exempt from tax; purchase of the steam cleaner and calculator is taxable.

Design and Installation

The services of design and installation of new industrial machinery and equipment for sale or rent are exempt from sales tax if industrial machinery and equipment are:

New means never having been used or consumed by anyone and does not include reconstructed, rebuilt, repaired, or previously-owned machinery or equipment.

The charges for design or installation must be separately identified, charged separately, and reasonable in amount.

Food Manufacturers

The exemptions listed for industrial machinery, equipment, and computers also apply to manufacturers that create food products for human consumption.

Fuel Exemptions Specific to Food Manufacturers

Food manufacturers are also entitled to certain exemptions that may not be available to other manufacturers. Bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants are not considered food manufacturers for purposes of these additional exemptions.

Fuel is exempt when used in:

See Appendix A for information on how to calculate a fuel exemption.


Chemicals Used in Processing and Used to Treat Water

The chemical, solvent, sorbent, and reagent exemption only applies during processing. The definition of processing is limited for this exemption. Processing means a change to the form, context, or condition of tangible personal property. There must be a change occurring during the chemical activity before this exemption applies. The "door-to-door" definition of processing for a manufacturer under the machinery, equipment, and computer exemption does not apply.

Chemicals, solvents, sorbents, and reagents are exempt from tax if the following apply:

The chemical, solvent, sorbent, or reagent does not need to become an integral or component part of the processed tangible personal property.

Chemical compounds placed in water are exempt from tax if the water is:

Special boiler compounds used when live steam is injected into mash or another substance are exempt from tax because it liquefies and becomes an integral part of the product. The product must be ultimately sold at retail.

Chemical Defined

Chemical means a substance primarily used for producing a chemical effect. A chemical effect results from a chemical process wherein the number and kind of atoms in a molecule are changed in form; for example, when oxygen and hydrogen are combined to make water. A chemical process is distinct from a physical process wherein only the state of matter changes; for example, when water is frozen into ice or heated into steam.

Solvent Defined

Solvent means a substance, usually liquid, primarily used in dissolving something. For example, water is a solvent of most salts; alcohol of resins; ether of fats.

Sorbent Defined

Sorbent means a substance which takes up and holds either by adsorption or absorption. To be exempt, the sorbent must be a substance that is primarily used as a sorbent.

Reagent Defined

Reagent means a substance used for various purposes which takes part in one or more chemical reactions or biological processes. Examples include using a reagent in detecting, examining, or measuring other substances, in preparing materials, and in developing photographs. A reagent is also a substance used to convert one substance into another by means of the reaction it causes. To be exempt, the reagent must be a substance that is primarily used as a reagent.

Catalyst Defined

A catalyst is considered to be a chemical, solvent, sorbent, or reagent. A catalyst is a substance which promotes or initiates a chemical reaction. It is exempt if it is consumed, dissipated, or depleted during processing of tangible personal property which is intended to be ultimately sold at retail.

Gases Used in the Manufacturing Process

Argon and other inert gases used in the manufacturing process are exempt from tax. An inert gas is any gas which is normally chemically inactive. It will not support combustion and cannot be used as either a fuel or as an oxidizer. Argon, helium, neon, krypton, radon, and xenon are inert gases. Oxygen, hydrogen, and methane are nonexclusive examples of gases which are not inert.

Warranties and Maintenance Contracts

Mandatory Warranty

A warranty is mandatory when the buyer, as a condition of the sale, is required to purchase the warranty or guarantee contract from the seller. The cost of the warranty is part of the cost of the item. Therefore, the sale of a mandatory warranty is taxable only if the item is taxable.

Sales of replacement parts and materials to the seller furnishing them under a mandatory warranty is a sale for resale and not taxable.

Labor performed under a mandatory warranty is exempt.

Optional Warranty

A warranty is optional when the buyer is not required to purchase the warranty or guarantee contract from the seller. The price of the optional warranty is taxable.

Preventive Maintenance Contract

A preventive maintenance contract is a contract that requires only the visual inspection of equipment; repair is not included. The sale of a preventive maintenance contract is not subject to tax.

Additional Parts and Labor

Additional charges for parts (except qualifying replacement parts) and labor furnished in addition to what is covered by a warranty or maintenance contract are taxable if the service is taxable.

Only parts (not labor) are subject to tax when a nontaxable service is performed, but the labor charge must be separately stated.

Sales Tax Exemption Certificates

A manufacturer does not need a sales tax permit to claim exemption.

See Sales Tax Exemption Certificates (pdf).

Purchasing Exempt Machinery, Equipment, and Computers

A manufacturer must give a Sales Tax Exemption Certificate (pdf) to the seller when purchasing exempt machinery, equipment, computers, and other materials used in the manufacturing process.

Manufacturers who repeatedly make the same purchase from the same supplier may give the supplier a single exemption certificate to cover multiple transactions. Called a “blanket certificate,” it should be updated every three years or sooner if needed so that it remains accurate and complete.

Selling Product for Resale

Manufacturers who sell the tangible personal property they produce must ask for exemption certificates when selling their products to other businesses that will then resell them.

Using Tax Free Items from Inventory

When a manufacturer buys an item tax free and then removes it from inventory for uses other than resale and processing, the manufacturer is responsible for reporting and paying the tax to the Department.

Urban Revitalization

Urban revitalization property and industrial machinery may also be exempt from tax. This property must meet other requirements in order to be exempt. Contact the Iowa Department of Economic Development at 1-800-532-1216 for more information about the type of property and the qualifications. For tax information, contact the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Items That Do Not Qualify for Exemption

Other examples of taxable items can be found in the sections above.

Property Tax Purposes


Machinery, equipment, and computers purchased by a business that is centrally assessed by the Department for property tax purposes are taxable.

Examples of this type of business include electric, gas, and water companies, railroad, telephone, pipeline, and electric transmission line companies.

Hand Tools


Tools that can be held in the hand or hands and are powered by human efforts.

Point-of-Sale Equipment


Input, output, and processing equipment used to conclude a sale and to record or process information about a sale transaction at the time the sale takes place. The equipment is normally located at a counter, desk, or other specific point where a sale transaction occurs.

Vehicles Subject to Registration


Vehicles are subject to a one-time registration fee at the rate of 5% on the purchase price unless directly and primarily used in recycling or reprocessing of waste products.



See Replacement Parts and Supplies.

Repair - Labor


There is no exemption for labor used to repair machines. If there is a lump sum billing for both labor and material, the entire amount is subject to tax.

Electricity - Appendix A

Determine the percentage used in processing

The following method may be used to determine the percentage of electricity used in processing. We suggest that conservative exempt estimates be made to avoid future liability for sales tax.To calculate use for a new business, an existing similar business may be willing to share its information if not in direct competition with your business.

First, the base period for the calculations must be selected.

Ordinarily, 12 prior months are used as the base period. However, individual circumstances can dictate that a shorter or longer period be used or that some 12-month period other than that immediately prior should be used.


Company A manufactures its product in a factory that has no windows and is heavily insulated. The factory always runs 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Because of these and other circumstances, Company A’s electrical usage does not vary significantly from month to month, and it is easy to document this. Company A can calculate its percentage of exempt use based on a 1-month period rather than a 12-month period.

Company B manufactures widgets. The “economic cycle” for widget production is, on the average, 36 months long. During this time there are times when, for months at a time, the plant will operate three shifts. At other times, for weeks at a time, the entire factory will shut down and its personnel will be laid off. The only accurate way to determine the exempt percentage of electricity used is to calculate the use over the entire economic cycle. Therefore, 36 months, rather than 12 months, is the base period.

Second, calculate kilowatts used per hour by each electrical device.

Kilowatts consumed per hour may be listed on the device itself. If not, formulas can be used to determine this information.


If using energy efficient lights, appropriate adjustments to calculations should be made.

For incandescent bulbs, add rated wattages and divide by 1,000. Multiply by the total number of hours which the light is used during the base period.

Watts divided by 1,000 = Kilowatts per hour x hours operated in base period = Total

For fluorescent lights, add rated wattages plus an additional 20% of rated wattages and divide by 1,000. Multiply by the total number of hours which the light is used during the base period.

Watts + 20% of Watts divided by 1,000 = Kilowatts per hour x hours operated in base period = Total

Devices other than lights

For these devices, use the wattage rating given by the manufacturer and divide by 1,000. Multiply by the total number of hours which the device is used during the base period.

Watts divided by 1,000 = Kilowatts per hour x  hours operated in base period  =  Total

Example 1

A machine used in processing consumes 20,000 watts per hour of operation. It is operated 40 hours per week for 50 weeks during a 12-month period. The machine does not operate when the factory closes for two weeks for employee vacation.

(1) 20,000 watts ÷ 1,000 = 20 kilowatts

(2) 20 x 40 hours per week = 800 kilowatts per week

(3) 800 x 50 weeks per 12 months = 40,000 kilowatts per 12-month period

(4) 40,000 kilowatts are exempt for the 12-month period for this machine

Example 2

A machine uses 30 kilowatts per hour of operation. During a 12-month base period, the machine is used in processing 200 hours per month for three months. The calculation for a 12-month period is as follows:

(1) 30,000 watts ÷ 1,000 = 30 kilowatts per hour

(2) 30 x 200 hours per month = 6,000 kilowatts per month

(3) 6,000 x 3 months per 12 months = 18,000 kilowatts per 12-month period

(4) 18,000 kilowatts are exempt for the 12-month period for this machine

Example 3

The following is a simplified example of a worksheet for determining the percentage of exempt electricity when a single meter records both exempt and taxable use.

Assume that all items (except air conditioners and space heaters) are active 100 hours a week for 50 weeks in a 12-month period. Assume air conditioners and space heaters are active 100 hours a week for 20 weeks in a 12-month period.

k per hr.
ALL EXEMPT        
Machine 1 10 1,000 50,000 50,000
Machine 2 20 2,000 100,000 100,000
Other 10 1,000 50,000 50,000
      Total Exempt: 200,000
Air Conditioners 10 3,000 20,000 20,000
General Lighting 15 1,500 75,000 75,000
Office Equipment 10 3,000 50,000 50,000
Space Heaters 5 1,500 10,000 10,000
Other 10 1,000 50,000 50,000
      Total Taxable 205,000
      Total All Usages 405,000

To determine the exempt percentage of total usage, divide 200,000 by 405,000, which equals 49.38%.

Once the percentage of exemption has been calculated, it must be applied during any period for which a purchaser is requesting exemption. The percentage should be recomputed if a substantial and permanent change in the amount of electricity consumed occurs or if the proportion of exempt to nonexempt usage changes.

Alternatives to the previous method of determining exempt usage of electricity

If only one meter measures both exempt and nonexempt use of electricity, the manufacturer should seriously consider separate meters. This choice is especially practical if all exempt use results from the activities of one machine.

It may be helpful to contact the manufacturer of the machine used in processing. Often, the manufacturer has a study available which gives a more accurate measure of the machine’s use of electricity than the formulas. This is especially true about large electric motors.

78-530 (12/31/13)