Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sales tax proposed on some veterinary services; horse boarding still exempt

On February 18, Governor Dayton's omnibus tax bill was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature.  It would eliminate many exemptions from sales tax - including some veterinary services - and impose sales tax on almost all services.  This is part of a broad tax reform plan. Among other things, it would reduce the sales tax rate and provide a property tax rebate while extending sales tax applicability to many previously exempted goods and services.  Here is a link to the companion bills, S.F. No. 552 / H.F. No. 677.

"Horse boarding services" would continue to be exempt, but riding instruction and training services not offered as part of a horse boarding business may not be.  Veterinary services would be exempt as follows:

Subd. 18. Veterinary services provided to a person other than a natural person.
Services of practicing veterinary medicine, as that term is used in chapter 156, and provided 
to persons other than natural persons, are exempt. This includes veterinary services for 
animals kept for economic reasons, including livestock, laboratory animals, working 
animals, animals to be sold at retail in the normal course of business, and sport animals. 

Sales on groceries and other agricultural products would continue to be exempt.  Horses are livestock, and raising them is an agricultural activity. That is enshrined in the law, thanks to a statute passed in 2010 that says so.  (Minn. Stat. 17.459).  A horse boarding and related horse training and riding instruction business is an agricultural land use in the property tax code, Minn. Stat. 273.13 Subd. 23(i)(3).

Horse training and riding instruction is agricultural education that should not be subject to taxation.  In a 2005 U of MN economic impact study, the horse industry was estimated to contribute $1 billion in Minnesota annually, which we cannot afford to jeopardize.  Horse boarding and training businesses are already overwhelmed by insurance costs, transportation and employment costs, and regulatory costs.  Even a small increase in the cost of doing business would threaten an important supply and demand link in our entire agricultural economy.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday evening, February 27, 2013 at 7:00 p.m at the State Office Building, Room 200.  Public testimony will be heard, and clarification on some of the bill's provisions may be provided.

To make your voice heard, identify your elected local representatives (here is a link to our State Legislature's "Who Represents Me?" web page) and contact them by email, phone, and regular mail with the message in bold above.  Stay tuned for more information about opportunities to educate the Legislature about the importance of horses in agriculture.