Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Business Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2018

Sales and Use Tax Annotations

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Annotation 100.0308


100.0308 Campaign Literature. A company is in the business of handling political campaigns for candidates and issues in California election contests. A contract is signed indicating that the company is an agent in the purchase of brochures and other materials. The company provides consulting and planning services in setting up the campaign and deals with the printer in the procurement of brochures and mailing pieces. The company prepares preliminary art, some final mechanical art, and some computer design which is used in the production of brochures. When brochures are finished the company bills the candidate for the brochures separately from other consulting services, but does not usually specify on the invoice the exact printer's charge nor does it routinely show the markup separately.

The company claims that the true object of the contract is the performance of consultant services, that the value of simple artwork done by the in-house artist is minimal, and that elaborate productions are handled by outside suppliers of art and mechanicals who charge sales tax. The company also provides creative concept copyrighting and graphic design with in-house staff for other direct-mail-product-only accounts and understands that there are "printed sales messages" which are exempt from tax.

Apparently the company, by signing a contract "indicating that the company is an agent", wishes to avail itself of the procedure provided in Regulation 1540(c)(1) to act as agent for the client. Since the company both marks up the cost of the brochures and does not separately invoice the reimbursement for purchasing the property, it does not acquire the brochures as an agent on behalf of the candidate. The company makes a taxable sale of the brochure and artwork to the client.

The true object of the contract is not the performance of consulting services. The artwork or brochures are custom made properties and have value as items of tangible personal property, the sale of which is subject to sales tax. The sales of the brochures are not exempt sales of printed sales messages. "Campaign literature and other fund-raising materials" are specifically excluded from the term "printed sales messages." 4/15/92. (Am. 2005–2).