Colorado: No Exemption for Products that Assist the Blind
- May 7, 2013 | Gail Cole
A General Interest Letter (GIL) recently released by the Department of Revenue explains that numerous products “used by the blind and legally blind to assist them with daily functions” are not specifically exempt from sales and use tax.
The GIL responds to an inquiry by a company that “sells products to help those who are blind and legally blind to read, attend school, obtain employment and, generally, be more independent.” It also sells devices that “help those who are deaf and deaf blind.” The company’s products include, but are not limited to:
- Braille note-takers that speak;
- Braille printers and embossers;
- Software for the blind and legally blind;
- Devices that read letters and mail to the blind;
- Mobile phones that are adapted for the blind;
- Electronic magnifiers that enable people who are legally blind to read;
- TTYs; and
- Deaf blind communicators.
Colorado law does exempt certain products relating to “visual and hearing aids,” including corrective eyeglasses. However, pursuant to relevant Colorado law, “Braille reading devices are among articles that are not included within this exemption.” (1 CCR 201-5 SR-33).
Prosthetic devices are also exempt from sales and use tax in Colorado. However, the GIL notes that “it does not appear that any of the devices” sold by the company in question would meet the exemption’s requirement of being “designed, manufactured or adjusted to fit a particular individual.”
Colorado also allows an exemption for durable medical equipment. In order to qualify, products must be “dispensed pursuant to a prescription” and be:
- Able to withstand repeated use;
- Primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose;
- Generally not useful to a person in the absence of illness or injury; and
- Not worn in or on the body.
Examples of exempted items include hospital beds, trapeze bars and shower aids.
Since Braille devices are “not defined by statute,” whether or not they “serve a ‘medical’ purpose” is not clear. Yet the GIL reminds that “in order to qualify for this exemption, the equipment must be purchased pursuant to a prescription.”
General Interest Letters are not binding in Colorado. Furthermore, since Colorado is a home rule state, the Department of Revenue only “administers state and state-administered local sales and use taxes,” not “sales and use taxes administered by home-rule cities and home-rule counties.”
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