Effective March 1, 2016, certain repair, maintenance and installation (RMI) services performed on tangible personal property are subject to sales tax. It is critical for both vendors and consumers of these services to familiarize themselves with these rules. As with sales tax on products, if sales tax should have been charged but was not, a corresponding use tax is owed by the customer.

Unfortunately, it will not always be straight-forward to determine which RMI services are taxable. One rule of thumb to consider is that if the underlying property is subject to sales tax, then the associated RMI services may also be taxable. If, however...

...the underlying property is not subject to sales tax, then the associated RMI services should not be taxable.

One significant variable in determining which RMI services are taxable has to do with the classification of the service provider. Retailers and retailer-contractors will continue to charge sales tax on their retail sales of tangible personal property. Retailers, those with a majority of revenue coming from retail sales of tangible personal property, will also charge sales tax on RMI services. However, retailer-contractors, as redefined, will not charge sales tax on RMI services they provide, as a majority of their revenue is from real property contracts. This means that the exact same service might be taxable when provided by one business but not taxable when provided by another business.

Also, services provided by businesses providing solely real property contract or RMI services are notsubject to sales tax.

Customers may not know if the vendor is a retailer, making it hard to determine if the RMI services are taxable. Customers will therefore need to rely largely on the representation of the vendor.

Another important consideration is whether or not the services provided are considered RMI services. RMI services are those performed on tangible personal property or motor vehicles and include the following activities:

  • To keep or attempt to keep in working order to avoid breakdown and prevent repairs.
  • To calibrate, restore, or attempt to calibrate or restore to proper working order or good condition. This activity may include replacing or putting together what is torn or broken.
  • To troubleshoot, identify, or attempt to identify the source of a problem for the purpose of determining what is needed to restore to proper working order or good condition.
  • To install or apply.

A few examples of businesses that should carefully consider these new rules are those selling and providing services for the following products:

  • Flooring
  • Building supply
  • Cabinet
  • Automotive, boat or motorcycle
  • Computer and technology
  • Clothing
  • Musical instruments and equipment
  • Outdoor equipment
  • Sports equipment

On February 5 the Department of Revenue issued two directives that provide further guidance, including clarification of these rules, additional examples and specific exemptions. Click to visit the Johnson Price Sprinkle PA website and learn more about these directives.