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Medical Equipment Tax Change Opens Door: CA Regulation 1591

author photo of James R. Dumler

The California State Board of Equalization recently amended Regulation 1591 with little to no fanfare. The revision went through the amendment process in relative obscurity, probably because it only added three words to the regulation. The potential impact of those three words, however, could be material for those in the medical products industry.

The proposal for this revision came out of the Board’s Business Tax Committee which is headed by Ms. Diane Harkey. Ms. Harkey, who represents the Fourth Equalization District (Orange County), and her staff have been a great resource for taxpayers, and through this committee have brought about several beneficial policy and procedural changes.

Regulation 1591 provides definitions and addresses the taxability of medicines and medical devices. The revision is a clarification of what constitutes an exempt medicine that is permanently implanted in the body. The words “or otherwise monitor” were added to the definition to include implantable devices such as heart monitors. Here is the revised portion of Regulation 1591(b)(2), with the new language in bold:

“In addition, articles permanently implanted in the human body to mark the location of or otherwise monitor a medical condition, such as breast tissue markers, qualify as medicines. An article is considered to be permanently implanted if its removal is not otherwise anticipated. Except for devices excluded from the definition of "medicines," permanently implanted articles include the interdependent internal and external components that operate together as one device in and on the person in whom the device is implanted. Tax does not apply to the sale or use of articles permanently implanted in the human body to assist the functioning of any natural organ, artery, vein or limb or mark the location of or otherwise monitor a medical condition, and which remain or dissolve in the body when such articles are sold or furnished under one of the conditions provided in subdivision (d)(1) through (d)(6).

The revision was primarily intended to encompass heart monitors, but the broadness of the phrase “or otherwise monitor” opens the door for its application to several other devices (e.g., implanted glucose monitors).

The Board has informed us that very few refund claims have been filed pursuant to the revision, probably due to the lack of publicity in connection with its enactment. We have also been informed that there are expedited refund processes available for products that fall within the applicable reclassification.

Does your company sell (or purchase) medical products? If your company sells or purchases medical products that fall within this newly expanded definition, please give me a call. I’d be happy to discuss the matter with you in more detail.

About the Author: James R. Dumler is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and an Equity Partner at McClellan Davis LLC, a professional firm specializing in a full spectrum of multistate sales and use tax services. James’ primary focus is multi-state sales and use tax audit, compliance and appeals matters, as well as cigarette & tobacco tax and sales and use tax return preparation. In addition, James has assisted numerous medical distributors and health facilities with compliance, refund and audit related matters in jurisdictions nation-wide.

Contact the Author: James can be easily reached using the "Request a Consultation" link on his associated FIRM PROFILE page. Post-related comments or questions are also welcome and may be submitted by using the on-page "Comment" feature, subject to disclaimer at bottom of page.

Other recent “Medical Industry Tax” posts by James R. Dumler:

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