If you're buying a car in Missouri, sales tax won't necessarily be collected when you complete the purchase. Rather, the Missouri Department of Revenue collects sales tax on motor vehicles when the buyer applies for title and registration.
Obtaining a Title
All vehicles purchased in Missouri must be titled in the state. Buyers have 30 days from the date the purchase is finalized to apply for a title and register their car. After 30 days, the state assesses a penalty of $25 for failure to title the vehicle. This penalty continues to increase in $25 increments for every additional 30 days the buyer neglects to title the vehicle, up to a maximum $200 penalty.
State and Local Sales Tax
When you apply for a title for your newly purchased vehicle, you pay state sales tax as well as any applicable county or city taxes. The entire amount you paid for the vehicle is subject to both state and local sales tax. Missouri considers the total sales price to be the amount you actually paid, minus any trade-in allowances, rebates or other incentives. The Missouri state sales tax rate is 4.225 percent at the time of publication. Additional local taxes depend on the city and county where you live. Missouri has an online calculator that can help you estimate the amount of sales tax you owe based on your address.
For example, if you buy a $12,000 car and you live in the St. Louis city limits, you must pay a total of $1,041.48 in sales tax when you title your new car. To arrive at this total, multiply the sales price by the state tax rate of 4.225 percent. Then, multiply the sales price by the local sales tax rate of 4.454 percent, and add the two figures, for example: ($12,000 x 0.04225) + ($12,000 x 0.0454) = $507.00 + $534.48 = $1,041.48.
You do not pay any sales tax if the vehicle was given to you as a gift, but the previous owner must enter "GIFT" in the blank provided for purchase price on the certificate of title. The previous owner also must report the gift to the Department of Revenue within 30 days of the transfer.
New State Residents
If you move to Missouri from another state, you have 30 days from the date you become a Missouri resident to title your vehicle. You do not owe sales tax if you bought and drove the car in another state for at least 90 days before you moved to Missouri. However, if you bought it within three months before moving and paid a lower sales tax rate in another state, you must pay the difference between the lower rate and the Missouri rate when you apply for a title.