New York Sales Tax Spares Webinars, Livestreams: Guidance

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By John Herzfeld

Webinars and live-streamed events produced by a cloud-computing provider aren’t subject to New York state and local sales tax, the state Taxation and Finance Department said. But related optional evaluation and continuing education services are taxable.

Advisory Opinion No. TSB-A-17(21)S, posted Sept. 12, responded to a petition from a cloud-based web platform provider for products that offer customers the ability to make live and recorded events available to their clients and members. Typical uses are making academic conferences, company meetings, lectures, training sessions, and continuing education conferences available to audiences over the internet.

The basic service provided—allowing the customers to upload or transmit presentations to a website and deploying technology to provide viewers with secure access to the content from their own telecommunication devices—isn’t taxable under state tax law and a 2016 advisory opinion ( No. TSB-A-16(6)S).

The producer also offers other benefits to customers that, if sold separately, would be taxable. But because the additional services and software are always offered as part of the basic service at no additional charge and are ancillary in nature, they aren’t taxable, the state said.

The nontaxable ancillary services include providing an event manager, a moderator, interactive software, and an online library of recorded webinars.

The petitioner’s optional offerings for evaluations and continuing education module software, however, are taxable, according to the opinion. They provide viewers with access to prewritten software that allows them to demonstrate their attentiveness, take tests, fill out evaluations, and track their continuing education activity for the year.

Tangible Personal Property

“By giving the viewers the ability to use prewritten software at an additional charge, Petitioner is making taxable sales of tangible personal property in New York to the extent that the customers’ viewers are using the prewritten software in New York,” the opinion said, citing a 2008 advisory opinion ( No. TSB-A-08(62)S).

Similarly, a separate charge for on-site or online evaluations, an optional component of the online library product, is also taxable as prewritten software.

The petitioner must separately state the tax for those optional products on any invoice or memorandum of sale, and collect tax based on the proportion of the customers’ viewers who give New York addresses in their continuing education information.

If the petitioner sells the webinar or live-stream product and doesn’t break out a separate charge for the optional products, the entire charge is taxable, the state said.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer McLoughlin at jmcloughlin@bna.com

For More Information

Text of Advisory Opinion No. TSB-A-17(21)S is at http://src.bna.com/svq.

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