Sales Tax Slice: Self-Care Services May Cause a Surge in Your Sales Tax Bill


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In case you missed it, Tuesday, July 24, 2018, was International Self-Care Day. While current trends may lean more towards the mindset of “treat yourself,” self-care encompasses steps a person can take to maintain mental and physical health. These steps may include improving hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle changes, and medical care, among others. Some states allow for specific exemptions from tax for certain goods and services related to self-care.

Physical activity is commonly identified as core tenant of self-care. States differ on the taxation of exercise or physical fitness services, including gym memberships, with some allowing for an exemption in order to promote public health. For example, Virginia exempts from sales tax the sales of exercise, fitness, and physical training services. Texas, however, taxes gym memberships unless the membership is purchased with a doctor’s prescription, requiring a separate prescription for each renewal. Missouri, on the other hand, taxes gym memberships, but exempts instructional classes, like yoga or tai chi.

Massage services are either nontaxable or exempt from tax in 38 states, with even more states allowing for exemptions in certain circumstances, such as for the treatment of illness or injury. Other spa and cosmetic services are also nontaxable or exempt in 38 states, meaning your facials or pedicures could cost less. However, states such as Connecticut, New Mexico, and Ohio do impose sales tax on spa and cosmetic services.

Grooming and hygiene products are generally taxable, but some states have created specific exemptions for certain products. Diapers, for example, have received sales tax exemptions in several states like Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. Other states like California or Washington only allow sales tax exemptions for products that can meet the definition of “drug” or “medicine.” If you are looking to purchase a new cosmetic product, chances are you will pay sales tax unless you live in one of the five states with no sales tax at all.

No matter how you practice self-care or what products you use, don’t forget to take some time for yourself this week.

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg Tax’s State Tax Group on LinkedIn: How does your state tax your self-care activities?

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