Carnegie Mellon University

General Frequently Asked Questions

Carnegie Mellon University is a corporate, non-profit, educational institution that has been granted tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3).

As a tax-exempt organization under IRC Section 501(c)(3), Carnegie Mellon is responsible for complying with appropriate federal and state corporate tax laws:

  1. The university is exempt from federal and state income tax on revenue from activities within its exempt mission;
  2. The university is exempt from state sales tax on sales and purchases within its exempt mission (where applicable);
  3. State sales tax is collected and remitted on sales of certain goods in the University bookstore and other “retail like” services available to the public; and

In addition, as an employer and provider of student financial aid, CMU is responsible for the correct tax withholding and reporting of the income of its faculty, staff, students, employees and independent contractors of the Internal Revenue Service and state tax authorities.

Yes. The university is required to file each year a Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax and a Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return with the Internal Revenue Service.
Form 990 is a tax return form used by tax-exempt organizations to provide the IRS with the information required by IRC Section 6033.

Form 990-T is an excise tax return form used by tax-exempt organizations to report unrelated business income and calculate the unrelated business income tax liability.

Yes. The tax returns of the university, Form 990 and Form 990-T, are open and available for public inspection. Public disclosure copies of the returns can be viewed in the Taxation office. A copy of the public disclosure returns can be requested by contacting Taxation.  

Unrelated Business Income (UBI) is the gross income derived from any trade or business that is regularly carried on and not substantially related to the organization’s exempt purpose or function. View the Unrelated Business Income (UBI) for more information.

A completed Form W-9 can be obtained by contacting Taxation

An IRS determination letter is a ruling issued to an organization if its application and supporting documents establish that it meets the particular requirements of the section under which it is claiming exemption. Carnegie Mellon has a Tax Determination Letter under IRC Section 501(c)(3) indicating that the IRS recognizes Carnegie Mellon as a tax-exempt, non-profit educational institution.

To obtain a copy of the university’s IRS Determination Letter, contact Taxation

No.  Carnegie Mellon is not exempt from the Allegheny County drink tax.
Sales Tax Exemption Certificates can be obtained by contacting Taxation.

In order for the Taxation to issue a valid Sales Tax Exemption Certificate, the following information must be provided:

  1. Name of Vendor where purchase was or is being made
  2. Complete street address of the Vendor (it is required to be printed on the certificate)
  3. Fax number and/or email address (if Certificate is being provided directly from Tax Department)
  4. Item(s) purchased for business purpose

Carnegie Mellon is exempt from sales tax in the following states only. Taxation should be contacted directly in order to receive the appropriate exemption form/certificate for each particular state. If a state is not listed below, Carnegie Mellon is either not exempt from the applicable sales tax or the state does not impose a sales tax.

  1. Colorado
  2. Connecticut
  3. D.C.
  4. Florida
  5. Illinois
  6. Kansas
  7. Maine
  8. Maryland
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Michigan
  11. Minnesota
  12. Missouri
  13. New Jersey
  14. New York
  15. Ohio
  16. Pennsylvania
  17. Rhode Island
  18. Tennessee
  19. Texas
  20. Utah
  21. Virginia
  22. West Virginia
The use of Carnegie Mellon's sales tax exemption is only valid and appropriate (and therefore considered a tax exempt purchase) if the purchase is being made DIRECTLY with CMU funds (i.e., purchase order, check, purchasing card).
No. Although the purchase is being made for a valid business purpose, individuals are not exempt from the PA state sales tax.  CMU's exemption is only valid if the purchase is made directly with CMU funds.  The sales tax exemption cannot be transferred.  Individuals should make every attempt to make business purchases directly with CMU funds to take advantage of the sales tax exemption status.

If the non-qualified scholarship payment is being paid to directly to the student, the Accounts Payable Non-Qualified Scholarship Payment Form [.pdf] must be completed.

If the non-qualified scholarship is being paid directly by the department/school on the student’s behalf, the Accounts Payable Non-Qualified Scholarship In Kind Form [.pdf] must be completed.

The Nonqualified Scholarship tax forms are located on the Finance Division Forms Website.
The university’s tax exempt status applies when a university purchasing vehicle is utilized (i.e., purchase order, purchasing card), even for purchases made by employees in Qatar and Australia. For any purchases made with personal funds, the university’s tax exempt status cannot be utilized.

Yes. CMU must pay sales tax in states where the university is not exempt from sales. A list of the states is included on the Sales Tax page. The most commonly used state that the university is not exempt from sales tax is California. Each state has its own exceptions to their sales tax laws and if you are denied the use of a sales tax exemption in a state where the university is exempt, please contact Taxation

The university is not exempt from: 

  • Hotel occupancy tax/room tax
  • Allegheny County Alcohol Tax; note: the rate is also 7% just like the sales tax rate 
  • Vehicle Rental Tax (PA and Allegheny County)
  • Telecommunications taxes
  • Amusement Tax
  • Unrelated business income tax
  • Potential foreign withholding taxes
  • Value Added Tax (VAT)
If the tax for the item is required to be paid by CMU, the tax amount becomes part of the “cost” of the purchase and is not broken out separately.
CMU does not have a VAT number, so VAT usually does have to be paid.
A vendor who provides services to the university with a value of $600 or more in the calendar year will receive a Form 1099-MISC.

No, the vendor is not required to accept CMU’s Sales Tax Exemption Certificate (REV-1220). In the event that CMU is denied exemption from sales and use tax, CMU would be required to pay the tax and could petition for refund with the Board of Appeals.