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While destination weddings are growing in popularity – so is the focus of state tax departments on photographers. For all practical purposes, Florida is one of the least expensive sunny destination photography locations in the county. Not only for weddings, but also other types of photo shoots as well. While Florida does not have a personal income tax, Florida does have some of the most complicated sales and use tax laws in the country. So photographers from all over the country find themselves on location in the sunny state, but few understand the tax consequences of working here. The purpose of this article is to discuss the sales and use implications of photographers working in Florida – and ways to minimize the tax impact.

At its most basic sense, Florida subjects to sales tax the sale of tangible personal property (TPP) within its borders. Seems simple enough. But photography is a service, right? Florida does tax a few types of services, for example commercial cleaning services, but photography is not one of those specifically taxed services. So there is no sales tax? Not necessarily. Whether a photographer's "services" are taxed depends on what the photographer transfers to the client. Is there any tangible personal property being transferred? In other words, how are the photos being delivered? Hard copies? A flash drive? A CD or DVD? Downloadable via the photographer's web site? The method of delivery determines the taxability. So while pure electronic download of the photos is not taxable, deliver by any tangible means creates a strong presumption that there will be Florida sales and use tax consequences. Even a book of proofs creates problems from a sales tax perspective. And, the State of Florida is unabashedly zealous in going after sales tax.

The cost of flash drives or a hard copy set of pictures can't be that expensive. So the sales tax consequences would be minimal right? This type of logic has lured many photographers into a false sense of security. It can be painfully shocking to learn that once any tangible personal property is transferred to the customer in a photography contract, the entire photography contract is subject to sales tax. I'll let that sink in for a moment. How many photo shoots have you done that transferred tangible property to your customer – without sales tax? Unfortunately, when a photographer does not charge sales tax on a taxable photo shoot, the photographer becomes liable for the sales tax – plus penalties and interest.

Even if a photographer avoids delivering any tangible personal property to customers, thereby evading having to charge Florida sales tax, the photographer is still subject to sales or use tax on everything used by the photographer. So all equipment, supplies, props, etc are all subject to sales tax. Even if the photographer pays sales tax on everything purchased, the photographer must still keep proof that the sales tax was paid. If the photographer purchases consumable items outside of Florida, then Florida law requires use tax be paid to Florida when the goods are consumed in Florida.

Another lurking issue for photographers concerns not just how the photos are delivered, but also whether the photographer transfers or rents any other tangible property to the client. Have you ever purchased clothes or props for a photo shoot that you gave to your client? In the eyes of a sales tax auditor, this would be enough to make the entire photo shoot contract subject to sales tax. Simply line iteming the clothes or props on the invoice may not be enough to stop the Florida Department of Revenue from trying to tax the entire contract. If the photographer rents lighting, sets, or other items and merely passes the cost along to the client – this could be a problem as well. This is because the photographer is now renting these items to the customer and renting tangible personal property is subject to sales tax in Florida.

In our practice, we've run into far too many companies that decided to fly under the radar and did not expect the Florida Department of Revenue to ever find them. Seriously – how can the Florida taxing authorities find out that a photographer entered Florida for three days for a photo shoot in Miami? Unfortunately, there are many ways the tax man can find you. For example, the Florida Department of Revenue could audit your client and they will likely see the payment made to your company – with no sales tax on the invoice. This is probably the most common way an audit is triggered for photographers. They could audit the company you rented equipment from or the hotel you stayed in. Did you ship some of your expensive equipment into the state? Well, insurance companies are required to report shipments into the state to the Florida Department of Revenue. Yes – the government literally has the ability to find you dozens of ways. Very scary isn't it?!?

Normally, a state has a certain number of years to come after someone for errors in taxes paid. This is called the "statute of limitations." In Florida, the statute of limitations is 3 years. However, one has to actually file a sales and use tax return to start the statute of limitations running. So if a photographer comes in the state for a big photo shoot and leaves without filing a tax return, then the state can come after the photographer many, many years later – as well as add penalties and years of interest onto the tax bill.

If the prospect of taxes due from years and years of photo shoots in Florida concerns you, then there is a creative way to minimize the risk that the Florida Department of Revenue comes after you. The Voluntary Disclosure program is a way to cut off the look back period to 3 years and waive penalties. Read more about the Voluntary Disclosure program in the article link at the end of this article.

Now that you are at least aware of the sales tax issues in Florida, then there are things you can do to minimize the sales tax impact going forward. The easiest way is to simply put in your contracts that NO TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY IS TRANSFERRED TO THE CUSTOMER IN THIS CONTACT and actually follow through with transferring the final product by purely electronic means only. This should protect you going forward – at least in Florida. If tangible delivery of your photography is necessary (such as copyright concerns for electronic delivery), then you might consider adding language to your contract that says no tangible personal property is delivered to the customer within Florida. The auditor might not like this, but the position is at least defendable from a Florida sales tax perspective. Of course, you may still have issues with sales tax in your home state or, potentially, the home state of your client. Sales tax is never, ever as simple as we would like it to be.

One other concept that probably does not occur to photographers or their clients is that a company hiring a photographer to do a photo shoot in Florida just might make your client subject to Florida's taxing jurisdiction. If you client is in the business of selling goods across state lines, then they may be relying on constitutional limitations that prevent most states from taxing the company. However, if the company has enough contact with Florida, also known as "NEXUS," then Florida may be able to tax the out of state company. Hiring a photographer in Florida or to come into Florida for a photo shoot just might be enough contact to create nexus for the company hiring the photographer – with dramatic tax implications for the company. You can read more about nexus in the link to a nexus article below.

We hope this article has been informative, if not a little unsettling, regarding the Florida sales and use tax impact on photographers in Florida. The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. is a firm with a dedicated focus on tax controversy work against the Florida Department of Revenue. Since 1991, our firm has been assisting company in virtually all industries to get a just and fair result when dealing with the Florida Department of Revenue. Whether your company has already received an audit notice or and you need to your policies and procedures to minimize the tax impact on your company, please contact our attorneys today for a free initial consultation.


Florida sales tax audit; Florida sales tax Attorney; Florida Sales Tax Audit help; Florida Sales Tax Audit Defense; Matthew Parker Attorney; Florida sales and use tax audit

About the author: Mr. Parker is a sales and use tax attorney and an associate in the law firm the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., based in the firm's Tampa office. Mr. Parker's practice includes state tax audits and controversies involving sales and use tax and all other state taxes including communication service tax, cigarette & tobacco tax, motor fuel tax, and Native American taxation. Mr. Parker received his law degree and L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact him via 813-775-2132 or or his firm bio.

Florida Sales Tax Attorney; Florida Sales and Use Tax Audit; Florida Department of Revenue; Tax Warrant Florida; Florida sales tax fraud; Florida sales tax defense

About the author: Mr. Sutton is a Florida licensed CPA and Attorney and a shareholder in the law firm the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. Mr. Sutton's primary practice is Florida tax controversy, with an almost exclusive focus on Florida sales and use tax. Mr. Sutton worked for in the State and Local Tax department of one of the Big Five accounting firms for a number of years and has been an adjunct professor of law at Stetson University College of Law since 2002 teaching State and Local Tax and at Boston University College of Law since 2014 teaching Sales and Use Tax. Mr. Sutton is a frequent speaker on Florida sales and use taxes for the FICPA, Lorman Education, NBI, and the Florida Society of Accountants. Mr. Sutton is also co-author of CCH's Sales and Use Tax Treatise. You can contact Mr. Sutton at 813-775-2131 or or his firm bio.


Rule 12A-1.041, FAC, Photographers and Photo Finishers; Sales by Public Officials of Public Records.


FL TAX – VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE CAN BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION, published October 5, 2012, by Jerry Donnini, Esq.

WHAT SERVICES ARE SUBJECT TO SALES TAX IN FLORIDA?, published May 1, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq.

FLORIDA NEXUS QUESTIONNAIRE – WHAT IS NEXUS FOR FLORIDA TAX?, published July 7, 2012, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq. and Jerry Donnini, Esq.