Separately Stated Food and Beverage Services Charges Exempt in Indiana

An Indiana hotel operator, which provided meeting rooms and made food and beverages arrangements for customers, was not liable for sales tax on separately stated service charges for serving food and beverages on customer invoices. Generally, in Indiana, separately stated service charges for serving or delivering food and food ingredients furnished, prepared, or served for consumption at a location, or on equipment, provided by the retail merchant are not subject to sales tax. The taxpayer provided documentation establishing that it separately stated the food and beverage services charges on its customers’ invoices. As a result, these services were not subject to sales tax. The Department of Revenue had issued two bulletins that covered the audit period which specifically stated that these types of charges are not subject to tax. The first bulletin (Bulletin 7) was in effect for the first two years of the audit. Bulletin 41 was issued in January 2014 (year 3 of the audit) which was deemed to be clarification of the Department’s position rather than the establishment of a new position. Therefore, the position detailed in Bulletin 41 applied to the entire audit period. This is a good example of requiring the state to follow the same principles they impose on taxpayers when administrative “clarifications” are issued. (Letter of Findings No. 10-20150692, Indiana Department of Revenue, October 26, 2016)

Posted on December 4, 2016