State Legislature Tackles Controversial Issue of Pet Grooming

August 21, 2007

Every year state legislators face a myriad of tough tax and budget issues: state income taxes, budget shortfalls, property taxes, etc. And of course there is that most controversial of all taxes: the sales tax on animal bathing.

From the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Web site:

Effective June 22, 2005, Public Chapter 499, Acts of 2005, amends Tenn. Code Ann. Section 67-6-102(a)(28)(F)(v) to make the total sales price charged for bathing an animal subject to the full state and local sales tax rate. The provision for taxing only 15% of a single charge that includes both bathing and grooming of an animal is repealed.

Laundering or dry cleaning of tangible personal property is a taxable service in Tennessee. Thus, charges for bathing animals are subject to sales tax while charges for grooming are not taxable. Persons providing animal grooming services who have been making a single charge that includes both the bathing and grooming of an animal have two options:

  • Separately itemize the charge for bathing from grooming and apply sales tax to the charge for the bathing portion of the invoice, or
  • Continue to make a single charge for both bathing and grooming, and apply tax to the total charge on the invoice.

The state’s Sales and Use Tax Guide also covers the issue.

Some people may ask, Why are bathing services and grooming services taxed at different rates? Why is the laundering of tangible personal property a taxable service but the grooming of a pet (also tangible personal properly, although some animal rights activists may object to this classification) not taxable? Some people may even ask why legislators feel the need to tax—or exempt from taxation—every little thing rather than apply one low, simple tax rate to a broad range of goods and services.

Clearly, anyone who asks these questions does not appreciate the time and effort that legislators (not just in Tennessee) put into these weighty tax issues. We wonder what that hearing was like. Did senators bring their dogs and cats to the statehouse to demonstrate to their non-pet owning colleagues the dangers and difficulties of bathing pets without professional assistance? We can just imagine the fur flying as legislators argued over which types of pet should be exempt from the sales tax on grooming: Hamsters but not guinea pigs? Puppies but not full-grown dogs? Calico cats but not tabbies?

All we can say is, Thank goodness the legislature addressed this critical issue. After all, Fluffy and Fido may not pay taxes, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to enjoy a nice, partially tax-exempt day at the pet salon.

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