Sales Tax Slice: Blurred Lines Between Janitorial and Like Services Complicate Taxability

When conducting a multistate analysis of services subject to sales tax, janitorial and similar services often present some unique distinctions.

For example, earlier this month, Ohio ruled that cleaning services purchased by a general contractor were subject to sales tax as building maintenance and janitorial services. The general contractor had purchased the services not to keep the structure cleaned in its normal condition, as is the case with what are normally considered building maintenance and janitorial services, but to prepare portions of it for additional construction work.

Similar to this decision, earlier this year, Washington emphasized its divergent taxation of window washing and exterior wall cleaning services. The state treats window washing as a janitorial service exempt from sales tax. Exterior wall cleaning services are instead treated as taxable real property services.

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group on LinkedIn: If the general contractor itself had performed the cleaning services, should its entire bundle of construction services have been taxed as building maintenance and janitorial services? Should the taxability of this component of the contract depend on whether it is subcontracted? How should Washington’s distinction be applied to glass houses?

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By Ernst Hunter