Instructor-Led Live Online Courses Not Taxable in Tennessee

Instructor-led live online courses provided by an out-of-state vendor were not taxable in Tennessee. The vendor provided online courses in two formats: live instructor-led and self-study. In Tennessee, the access and use of computer software is subject to sales and use tax, regardless of a customer’s chosen method of use. The instructor-led online courses were exempt since students were purchasing access to live classes and the software platform was merely incidental to the transaction. The primary purpose of the platform software is to provide access to a real time presentation where the student can interact with the instructor and view presentation materials. After gaining access, the student is not interacting with a computer program. Additionally, the live instructor-led classes are not specifically enumerated as taxable services in Tennessee. As a result, the live instructor-led online courses were exempt. However, the self-study online courses – in which students primarily learn the course information by reading online text and by answering test questions – are subject to tax since the true object of the transaction is access to online course modules via remotely accessed computer software. (Letter Ruling No. 20-04, Tennessee Department of Revenue, June 10, 2020)

Posted on July 29, 2020