Taxability of Online Learning Courses, Products, and Services in New York

New York has issued an advisory opinion discussing the taxability of different services provided by a taxpayer. An online learning course that enables customers to earn educational certificates in various fields through software was deemed taxable as prewritten software. The taxpayers’ sale of a food safety course that is downloaded to the customers’ computer was also considered prewritten software and taxable. The tax for these charges should be collected based on the point at which the customers took constructive possession, which is the location where the software is used. For an additional charge, the taxpayer also offers an online mentoring service, access to an online reference library, and certain professional services. The nature of the online mentoring service is an educational service which is not one of the services enumerated as taxable ion New York. Therefore, those charges are not subject to sales tax. The online reference library is taxable as an information service. Lastly, the taxpayers’ charges for professional services will be considered exempt as long as they are distinct from the online learning course. The professional services will be considered distinct if the online learning course can be purchased without the purchase of these services, and the charge for the online learning course does not vary based on whether the customer is also buying the service. (TBA-A-09(2)S, New York Commissioner of Taxation and Finance, January 21, 2009)

Posted on February 17, 2009