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Old 08-02-2011, 02:49 PM   #1
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E-books Exempt from New York Sales Tax

http://blogs.forbes.com/peterjreilly...ork-sales-tax/

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Petitioner, a California company, stores a digitized catalog of electronic books (“e-books”) available for sale to customers inside and outside New York through its on-line bookstore. E-books purchased through Petitioner’s electronic bookstore are delivered electronically via the Internet to customers and are stored on the customer’s personal electronic devices, including tablets and smart-phones. Customers are then able to view and read the e-books on certain electronic devices. The e-books purchased through Petitioner’s electronic bookstore are not generally available for printing and are not transferable for viewing on a computer.
I thought this was Apple at first, but the "The e-books purchased through Petitioner’s electronic bookstore are not generally available for printing" section sounds more like a niche publisher/distributor of digital only books?

Quote:
Petitioner’s e-books are not tangible and do not include any prewritten computer software. Accordingly, they do not constitute tangible personal property.
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Old 08-02-2011, 03:02 PM   #2
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Since I started buying e-books last October, none of the online bookstores has ever charged me NY sales tax on an e-book, though they do charge such sales tax on paper books shipped to me.
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Old 08-02-2011, 03:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by kjk View Post
http://blogs.forbes.com/peterjreilly...ork-sales-tax/



I thought this was Apple at first, but the "The e-books purchased through Petitioner’s electronic bookstore are not generally available for printing" section sounds more like a niche publisher/distributor of digital only books?
Or just that you can't print the ebooks. It doesn't say that there are not printed versions of the same book available elsewhere.
Not printable and not viewable on a computer does sound like Apple.
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Old 08-02-2011, 03:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by murraypaul View Post
Or just that you can't print the ebooks. It doesn't say that there are not printed versions of the same book available elsewhere.
Not printable and not viewable on a computer does sound like Apple.
Yes, in that context, I agree.

But, I also expect iBooks in OS X by Xmas.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:36 PM   #5
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I'm somewhat surprised that a state chose to NOT tax something.
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Old 08-02-2011, 07:28 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by CleverClothe View Post
I'm somewhat surprised that a state chose to NOT tax something.
It's not a recent change, just an interpretation of tax codes that have been in place for years. If no physical object changes hands, generally speaking, it's not taxable. (California is the same way, or was when I was doing business, at least).
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Old 08-02-2011, 09:48 PM   #7
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Even if there was a tangible object being sold, I thought they would only have to charge NY tax if they had a physical presence located in NY state. Unless there's some special aspect to the situation - I have a vague recollection that Amazon had to charge tax on DTBs because of having affiliates in NY, but it doesn't seem like a niche publisher selling books off their own website in California would have that problem. If it's Apple, the situation is a lot clearer.

Last edited by wayrad; 08-02-2011 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:35 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by wayrad View Post
Even if there was a tangible object being sold, I thought they would only have to charge NY tax if they had a physical presence located in NY state.
That is a whole different issue, currently working its way through the courts between Amazon and New York state. This wasn't over whether a company has to collect sales tax at all, but rather over whether or not a specific category of product is taxable even if you buy it in a local store.
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Old 08-03-2011, 04:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taustin View Post
It's not a recent change, just an interpretation of tax codes that have been in place for years. If no physical object changes hands, generally speaking, it's not taxable. (California is the same way, or was when I was doing business, at least).
This is a curious anomaly. An eBook is something that has value, whether it's "tangible" or not, so surely it should be taxed. Are music downloads similarly exempt from tax?
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Old 08-03-2011, 05:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
This is a curious anomaly. An eBook is something that has value, whether it's "tangible" or not, so surely it should be taxed. Are music downloads similarly exempt from tax?
I believe so...I've never paid any tax on my music..unless it's built into the .99 price and I didn't know that.
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Old 08-03-2011, 07:16 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by wayrad View Post
Even if there was a tangible object being sold, I thought they would only have to charge NY tax if they had a physical presence located in NY state. Unless there's some special aspect to the situation - I have a vague recollection that Amazon had to charge tax on DTBs because of having affiliates in NY, but it doesn't seem like a niche publisher selling books off their own website in California would have that problem. If it's Apple, the situation is a lot clearer.
This is correct. I sell some software I have written and nothing physical changes hands. I have to collect NY State sales tax every time I make a sale to a NY resident because I am in New York myself.
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Old 08-03-2011, 07:36 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by taustin View Post
That is a whole different issue, currently working its way through the courts between Amazon and New York state. This wasn't over whether a company has to collect sales tax at all, but rather over whether or not a specific category of product is taxable even if you buy it in a local store.
What I had in mind was that the initial post indicates it's a question of whether a California company should have to charge NY sales tax on an item. Regardless of the type of merchandise and whether it's inherently taxable or not, I can't see the question even arising unless the company has a brick and mortar presence of some sort in NY, as Apple does. I probably didn't express it well.

Last edited by wayrad; 08-03-2011 at 07:45 AM.
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Old 08-03-2011, 12:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
This is a curious anomaly. An eBook is something that has value, whether it's "tangible" or not, so surely it should be taxed. Are music downloads similarly exempt from tax?
HarryT,
it is curious, and varies from state to state here.
Apple mentions it in their T&C:
Quote:
Your total price will include the price of the product plus any applicable sales tax; such sales tax is based on the bill-to address and the sales tax rate in effect at the time you download the product. We will charge tax only in states where digital goods are taxable.
I'm in California, and downloads like the OS X Lion upgrade, IOS apps, and songs are not taxed. (Or rather, Apple does not collect the tax).
And our company does not charge sales tax on digital files we send to clients, but do for printed materials/physical items, even the exact same printed version of the digital file.

This is a separate issue than the whole in-state/out-of-state state tax/use tax thing, as taustin notes-the no sales tax between states has been around forever-the digital thing is relatively new, and I believe was supposed to be just a short term break to give digital commerce a boost.

But wayrad, yeah, I do see your point-they must also have a presence there, so maybe it isn't quite so separate!

Last edited by kjk; 08-03-2011 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:48 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
This is a curious anomaly. An eBook is something that has value, whether it's "tangible" or not, so surely it should be taxed. Are music downloads similarly exempt from tax?
It varies - a lot - by state, and changes over time. In California, for instance, food is not taxable, but attempts have been made to tax junk food. This led to a curious situation where a single package of, say, Hostess chocolate covered donuts was taxable but a box of the same packages wasn't. At one point, the Board of Equalization couldn't tell what was and wasn't taxable.

This is why the Surpeme Court has ruled (many, many years ago) that out of state businesses cannot be forced to act as tax collectors for the state. It's impossible to track it all, as there are literally thousands of tax distircts in the US, and many of them have variable and contradictory classifications for different kinds of goods and services.
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:52 PM   #15
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(Or rather, Apple does not collect the tax).
Which can confuse the issue even further, as in most states, retailers are required to pay sales tax, but are not required to collect it. Which is to say, it can be included in the listed price, if the retailer chooses. (Most don't, because they want their customers to know how much they're paying in taxes on their purchase, but in some circumstances, like interstate online commerce, it's too much trouble to bother.)
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