Portable Toilet Rentals Subject to Tax, Not Exempt as a Service in Missouri

The Missouri Supreme Court held that the provision of portable toilets and related services were taxable as the rental of tangible personal property, not exempt as waste removal services. The taxpayer advertises itself as a portable toilet rental company. The taxpayer delivers and picks up portable toilets and performs ancillary services including cleaning the portable toilets and delivering the waste to a sewage treatment facility. The taxpayer’s invoices contain two charges: one for the rental and services for the portable toilets and one for the delivery fee. The taxpayer was audited and assessed tax due since it was not collecting sales tax on the rentals. The taxpayer argued that the entire portable toilet business is a service, and therefore tax-exempt since portable toilet services are not listed as a taxable service in Missouri. The court noted that the taxpayer holds itself out as a portable toilet rental service, and without providing the portable toilets to its customers, it has no service to provide. In Missouri, gross receipts that are subject to sales tax are “the total amount of the sale price of the sales at retail including any services ….” This includes the rental of tangible personal property. The taxpayer does not separate any amount representing its cleaning or servicing from the rental of the portable toilet. Since the taxpayer failed to separate these amounts, the court stated that it is impossible to determine whether a portion of the receipts should be excluded from taxation. As such, the taxpayer’s gross receipts are subject to tax. The taxpayer urged the court to apply the “true object” test and find that they only provide a nontaxable service. The court stated that the applicable statute’s “plain language is clear and resolves this dispute without having to resort to the “true object” test.” (Opinion No. SC98444, Supreme Court of Missouri, December 22, 2020)

Posted on January 12, 2021