NHSCA Interprets Washington State Tax Advisory

Appears official that longstanding law of no sales tax upon initial sale of home service contracts is affirmed.

The Washington State Department of Revenue published an Excise Tax Advisory (ETA) on January 12, 2016, ETA 3198.2016 regarding the sales taxation of home service contracts.

This ETA has been in discussion for years with the home service contract industry. The Washington Department of Revenue (DOR) has desired to alter the tax law after decades of audit clearance letters by the DOR approving of no sales tax upfront on the sale of home service contracts. Sales tax has always been collected when local Washington contractors later perform work. Only a handful of states tax the sale of home service contracts at the time of contract sale, and only pursuant to clear and specific statutory authority.

The ETA appears to rely in great part on a wholly unrelated statutory amendment in 2005 that taxed the sale of new product “extended warranties” sold at retail under RCW 82.04.050. Home service contracts do not cover new product, retail sales in any way shape or form. The reliance on the taxation of new products sold at retail, makes the entire basis for the ETA suspect.

Also casting a cloud, is that the DOR has continually assessed a B&O tax on all home service contract sellers at the rate of 1.5%. If home service contract sales were indeed retail sales, subject to RCW 82.04.050, the tax rate should have been the applicable 0.471%. If upheld, may years of refunds would need to be calculated.

Due to these issues, the DOR and the NHSCA cooperated to sponsor HB 1997 in March, 2013 to change the taxation of home service contracts to be more like that of retail goods. The legislature rejected that approach after a full hearing on the issues. This ETA appears to be an overt attempt to circumvent the Legislature.

However, this advisory strains to explain that typical home service contracts that only cover real estate and fixtures (broadly defined as virtually all appliances and household systems) are not sales taxable. So one fair reading is this ETA perhaps continues the decades old interpretation by the DOR and legislature that home service contracts are not taxed at time of sale, but only on work later performed later by a local contractor.

Due to the ETA not being reviewed with industry prior to publication, it contains some odd factual errors including a statement that a warranty can only cover personal property and erroneous legislative definitional references to “warranty” that any real impact of the non binding advisory is difficult to assess. An included discussion of “mixed service contracts” has few definitions and suggests a deminmis or “no tax” tax rule on covered tangible personal property, so it may also suggest no change in policy.

One can only fairly conclude as the Washington Legislature has, that home service contracts are not taxable at time of sale, just as the DOR has ruled for decades. Only the legislature can change the law. The NHSCA remains ready and willing to accept a future change set by the Washington legislature.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. For more great industry and consumer information, including short helpful videos, visit  http://www.homeservicecontract.org or call 913871-5600.

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CONSIDER AGE OF APPLIANCES AND SYSTEMS WHEN PURCHASING A HOME

 

Cost of service and repair can be costly according to the National Home Service Contract Association. A home service contract is a good option.

(Lenexa, KS) — There are many items to consider when purchasing an existing home. Many buyers, especially those in the market for their first home, look at the sale price to determine if they can afford to buy. The National Home Service Contract Association, the industry trade organization serving home service contract providers and consumer interests, strong suggests that consumers factor in the cost of maintenance, repair and replacement of major appliances and homes systems when budgeting for a home.  Knowing the “life expectancy” of those systems is key.

Take for example an air conditioning system. Most AC systems have a life expectancy of 10-15 years. If you are considering the purchase of a home that is over 15 years old, with the original system, you could be living on borrowed time. Three years or three months? Who knows? It’s a guessing game, but the only thing that is often certain is that when it does go, it will be at the most inopportune time. Considering that the average cost to replace and install an average air conditioning system is $4,500 – $6,500, doing a little upfront research is a pretty good idea.

You can protect yourself from many of these budget busters by purchasing a home service contract form a member of the NHSCA.

The following is a list of averages for many of the appliances and electronic systems in your home based on the most recent research from The National Association of Home Builders:

  • gas ranges – 15 years
  • dryers and refrigerators – 13 years
  • washers – 10 years
  • compactors – 6 years
  • dishwashers – 9 years
  • microwave ovens – 9 years
  • HVAC – 15-20 years
  • furnaces – 15-20 years
  • tankless water heaters – 20 years
  • electric or gas water heater  – 10 years
  • heat pumps -16 years
  • air conditioning – 10 to 15years
  • garage doors – 10 to 15 years

Home service contracts provide service, repair or even replacement on a home’s major systems and appliances. At an average range of $350 – $550 for a year, these contracts typically cover items such as heating systems, interior plumbing, electrical systems, water heaters, dishwashers, and garbage disposals. Other items such as pools, spas and septic tanks may be added at an additional fee. As always, we suggest you consult with your real estate agent for guidance.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. For more great industry and consumer information, visit  http://www.homeservicecontract.org or call 913-871-5600.

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VACANT HOMES SITTING IDLE ON MARKET CAN POSE PROBLEMS

Lack of use can cause costly repairs, not to mention denied  insurance claims.

(Lenexa, KS)   When home sits idle on the market, or vacant for most any reason, lack of proper maintenance or simply lack of use can cause costly repairs or replacements down the road. They may also result in lack of coverage under your insurance policy.

“When it comes to home appliances and whole house systems such as heating and cooling, wear and tear is not the only concern these days, just the lack of use can result in problems.   Cars, boats and motorcycles are no different,” advises Art Chartrand, Executive Director and Counsel to the National Home Service Contract Association. “These mechanical systems were meant to be used, not sit around. Even with a service contract and proper insurance, you still have to check on a vacant property, “  Chatrand advises. They just fail from non-use.  Valves freeze, gaskets dry out and gears rust form moisture.  P-traps in drains also dry out and can fill your house with methane sewer gasses.

 “Now, more than ever I am strongly encouraging my clients to require the seller provide a home service contract – especially if the home has been on the market for an extended amount of time,” advises Mitch Miller, REALTOR with Better Homes & Garden Real Estate.  “Contracts generally range from $350-$550 a year and can be renewed by the home buyer. It just makes good sense especially, as in the case of a foreclosure, there is no homeowner available to provide information. In addition, many companies provide seller coverage free of charge during the listing period, so it helps protect the seller as well.”

Home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, electrical and plumbing systems – and most importantly, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).  Many home service contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool and spa equipment, well pumps, and free standing appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Contracts do not cover pre-existing conditions, but will provide service, repair or replacement for failures arising due to normal wear and tear during the contract period.

“Our goal as an industry is to provide the best value for the consumer, “  said Billy Jensen, Fidelity National Home Warranty. He added  “In 2016, our members paid out over one billion dollars in wholesale value of claims.”

Aside from the need for a home service contact, homeowners need to be careful with their insurance coverage as well. While most policies cover you for routine absence due to vacation and cover otherwise furnished and utilized vacation homes that are unoccupied for great lengths of time, they often do not cover “vacant” homes. A vacant home may be described as one without any furnishings or utilities active.

One novice in Kansas recently bought a house and left that very day for Texas leaving their son living across town in charge. The son did nothing and the house was vacant for the next ten days. Upon returning to town, a water leak in the kitchen was discovered that caused major damage.  This is an insurable peril and cannot be covered by a service contract by law. The insurance carrier balked claiming the house was vacant and unattended.  Homeowners then haplessly tried to blame everyone form the seller, to the their agent to the tooth fairy to no avail.  The fact is they had the keys and just left the house vacant and things happen.  So make sure you check with your insurance carrier if your home will be vacant and unattended for any length of time.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. For more great industry, media and consumer information, visit  http://www.homeservicecontract.org or call 913-871-5600.

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