[APG Public List] NYS Sales Tax

Leslie Corn lesliecorn at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 4 16:54:07 MDT 2010

Please pardon the duplicate posts.

I tried to get some clarity about the new sales tax on genealogical research
services from an agent at the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. I
don¹t know if this is going to help or not. I certainly don¹t think I¹ve had
my questions answered, and I can¹t vouch for accuracy. On top of everything,
the agent was very snippy, which made the experience oh-so-pleasant.

I tried to explain to her the different aspects of our work: for private
clients, forensic, heir searching, due diligence, for in-state clients, for
out-of-state clients, document retrieval, etc.

I also quoted the statement on page 1 of their memo (
http://www.tax.state.ny.us/pdf/memos/sales/m10_7s.pdf) that "information
that is personal or individual in nature and that is not or may not be
substantially incorporated in reports furnished to other persons" is exempt
from tax. The agent angrily said, "Genicalogical [sic] services would not be
listed as taxable, if they weren't. They¹re clearly taxable.²  No budging
from that to discuss the proprietary nature of reports that Dee Dee King

The agent constantly had to put me on hold, while she asked someone for
answers to my questions. I asked to speak with someone directly who had the
answers and was told no. I could write to the address for Instructions and
Interpretation (listed below).

Some other things I was told in response to my questions:


If you are a genealogist who works in New York, and you provide research to
a client in another part of the country, you do not have to charge sales tax
to that client. 


If you work in a state besides NY and you provide a NYS client with
research, you will have to charge that client sales tax and pay it to NYS
Dept of Taxation and Finance. That applies to genealogists who work out of
the country, too. 

I asked the agent for clarification, as that¹s not the case with goods. So
why is it true for research services? Another snippy answer that it¹s
³destination tax,² charged for goods, and must be charged for services, too.
But if you order a hat from Maine and you live in NY, you wouldn¹t pay NYS
sales tax, I said. She said, ³Yes, you would. Destination tax.²


Are documents that we collect taxable? The answer is yes. And no.

If you get a photocopy, it¹s taxable. If you get an original, it¹s not
taxable. (You can anticipate what I said next.)

So, if we provide a client with a birth certificate from 1897 that we¹ve
ordered from the NYS DOH, does that mean that we have to charge sales tax on
the $22 we¹ve paid for a genealogical copy? The answer was no, if it¹s an
original. I said, it can¹t be an original. The original was issued in 1897.
The next answer was that if the document is ³officially stamped and
certified,² you would not charge sales tax. I thought it pointless to get
into how obtaining a certified birth certificate by someone other than the
person named on the certificate from the NYS DOH, even from 1897, now
requires a court order, so most of us don¹t order certified copies. Maybe
the NYS DOH stamp would make it exempt.


If you stand at a photocopier and copy a document, you have to charge sales
tax on the photocopies, because that¹s a photocopy, not an original.

How clear is this so far?

Moving on...


I was told that if the court gives us an exemption certificate‹i.e. they¹re
exempt from sales tax‹we don¹t have to charge our clients/attorneys/public
administrators sales tax for our research services.

I never got a clear answer about taxation on research for kinship and due
diligence matters, except something to the effect that if the client will
pay sales tax, then we don¹t have to.


I was told that any genealogist doing business with clients in NYS or any
genealogist who works in NYS must register. Go to www.nys/opal.com to do so.
This must be done 20 days before you get the client. I questioned that, as
we typically don¹t know that far in advance about clients¹ requests. I was
told how everyone else complies.

This is the place to register online:


Then go to Online Applications, click blue arrow, then to first option
³Authorization to collect...²

Please note that after you register, if you do not file the necessary forms
reporting tax you have (or, if none, haven¹t) collected, you will be charged
a penalty. 

It¹s obvious that we need more clarity on this issue.

I was told that we can ³argue² tax concerns by writing to:

> Instructions and Interpretation
> NYS Tax Department
> Building 9, Room 146
> State Campus
> Albany, NY 12227

My head spins. I don¹t know if I got correct answers, so please check
everything out for yourself. The phone numbers for the NYS Dept of Taxation
and Finance are 800-698-2909 and 518-485-2889. Together, hopefully, we can
sort this out. 
more, I¹ll post.


Leslie Corn, CG, FGBS
Certified Genealogist
Forensic Genealogical Research, Due Diligence, & Missing Heirs
New York, NY
LeslieCorn at earthlink.net
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