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Ever since the Department of Revenue began taxing "non-residential cleaning services" in the 1990's under Sec. 212.05(1)(i), Florida Statutes (F.S.), there has been a lot of controversy determining what is and is not a taxable cleaning service. Needless to say, the FL Department of Revenue has done a good job at taxing as many types of cleaning services as possible. However, in 2009, the legislature made a change to the statute tailoring the type of taxable nonresidential cleaning services to a very specific NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code (561720). If your cleaning service falls under a different NAICS code, then you have an extremely strong position to take that your services are not subject to sales tax. So knowing and understanding the sales tax law versus the NAICS code can be a very valuable tool when determining sales tax. We've run into this issue in our practice for several types of industries related to cleaning services and wanted to share our experience along with the details of a new Technical Assistance Advisement issued in September 2014 on this topic.

As with any matter of tax law, it is best to start with the law itself. Section 212.05(1)(i), F.S. provides in relevant part:

It is hereby declared to be the legislative intent that every person is exercising a taxable privilege who . . . furnishes any of the things or services taxable under this chapter . . ..

  • For the exercise of such privilege, a tax is levied on each taxable transaction or incident, which tax is due and payable as follows:

* * *

(i)1 . At the rate of 6 percent on charges for all:

* * *

b. Nonresidential cleaning . . . (NAICS National Number … 561720).

According to the NAICS Association, code 561720 refers to:

Janitorial Services: This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in cleaning building interiors, interiors of transportation equipment (e.g. aircraft, rail cars, ships), and windows.

So cleaning the interior of non-residential buildings and transportation equipment is presumably taxable. However, if your company falls under a different NAICS code, then the service is not taxable. So it is very important for tax professionals and company owners to understand what the proper NAICS code is for the company. With this knowledge, you will likely understand more about sales tax law than the typical sales tax auditor. For example, code 561790 applies to cleaning the exterior of a building and is not taxable. Code 238990 applies to sandblasting building exteriors and is not taxable.

As another example, I've represented several cleaning companies that had a large customer base of general contractors. These taxpayers would handle construction cleaning, specifically during construction and immediately after construction. Because the check for the cleaning service is written by a commercial company, the sales tax auditors inevitably jump to the conclusion that the service is a taxable "nonresidential cleaning service." Honestly, this may be a reasonable presumption for someone that doesn't understand the law and, unfortunately, the burden is on the taxpayer to prove the auditor wrong. In each instance, we were able to prove to the auditor that construction cleaning falls under NAICS Code 238990 "cleaning building Interiors during and immediately after construction" to have the proposed assessment removed from the audit. The issue was so clear that we did not even have to protest the matter in Tallahassee.

As another example, it might be a shock to Stanley Steamer (and most Department of Revenue officials) to learn that commercial carpet cleaning has a specific NAICS code (561740) and arguably should not be subject to sales tax in Florida as a non-residential cleaning service.

If you are unsure whether your company (or your client's company) is providing a taxable "non-residential cleaning service" within NAICS 561720, then there is a way to get an answer from the Florida Department of Revenue that is not only clear, but also binding on the state. You can ask for a Technical Assistance Advisement (TAA) in which you describe in detail what your business does to the FL DOR and suggest how you think the business activity should be treated for tax purposes. Then the FL DOR responds with their own interpretation and the answer is binding on both the FL DOR and the taxpayer. This can be extremely helpful for businesses in "gray areas" of sales tax law because Florida businesses become liable for mistakes in sales tax, often completely wiping out the profit of a company during a 3 year audit.

This brings us to a recent ruling, TAA 14A-020, issued September 5, 2014 to a taxpayer that cleans the stove ventilation hoods of restaurants. In case you were not aware, the ventilation hood over a stove in a commercial restaurant gets dirty – very dirty. The steam rising off the cooking food, which often smells o-so-good, also carries small particles of grease and food into the air, much of which sticks to the inside of the hood. Over time, these particles accumulate into a serious, greasy fire hazard, right over a burning hot stove. Sound like a recipe for disaster? The National Fire Protection Association thought so and issued Standard Code 96, requiring all restaurant ventilation hoods to be cleaned and maintained regularly. So the question presented to the Department of Revenue in the TAA request is whether the store ventilation hood cleaning service is subject to sales tax as a non-residential cleaning service or should it be a non-taxable maintenance/repair to real property.

Joseph Franklin, Tax Law Specialist for the Technical Assistance and Dispute Resolution department of the Florida Department of Revenue, did a great job in the TAA reviewing the history of similar services and their tax treatment. According to Mr. Franklin, ventilation hood cleaning services are akin to "chimney cleaning services," which used to be considered taxable by the FL DOR. However, Mr. Franklin researched and found that NAICS code 561790 applies to ventilation duct cleaning services for buildings and dwellings. Because ventilation cleaning services is what the taxpayer does in this instant case and because NAICS code 561790 is not listed as a taxable service in 212.05, F.S., Mr. Franklin found that the taxpayer's cleaning services were not subject to sales tax – in a ruling that is binding on both the taxpayer and the Department of Revenue.

The moral of the story is that it can be very important to be aware that Florida sales and use tax statutes do occasionally make reference to a NAICS code. With this knowledge, it can be very helpful to understand exactly what code your business should be categorized into because this could very well be the deciding factor between a devastating sales tax audit assessment and a NO CHANGE AUDIT (yes… those really do occur).

If you have questions about your clients or your own business with regard to sales tax, then please do not hesitate to contact our law offices to take advantage of our FREE INITIAL CONSULTATIONS. Our firm has been representing taxpayers against the Florida Department of Revenue since 1991 and handles almost nothing but Florida sales and use tax matters. We would glad to answer your questions and help keep your Florida sales and use tax troubles to a minimum. Trust me, you don't want to wait until and auditor is reviewing 3 years of your records to find out you have been doing something wrong.

Tampa sales tax attorney; Tampa sales tax audit; Florida sales tax attorney; Florida sales tax audit; Orlando sales tax attorney; Orlando sales tax audit

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 the State and Local Tax Chairman for the American Association of Attorney – Certified Public Accountants. You can read more about Mr. Sutton in his firm BIO HERE.


Sec. 212.05(1)(i), F.S. (Statute enacting a sales tax on non-residential cleaning services)

Rule 12A-1.0091, F.A.C. (Rule clarifying the sales tax on non-residential cleaning services)

TAA 14A-020 (Charge for Hood Cleaning Services Not Subject to Sales Tax)

NAICS Look Up Service


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

FL DOR SALES TAX EXEMPTION CERTIFICATION MOBILE APP, published October 7, 2014, by Jerry Donnini, Esq.

FLORIDA SALES & USE TAX AUDITS: DUELING PERSPECTIVES, published April 6, 2014, by Matthew Parker, Esq.

JAILED FOR A MERE $1,500 FL SALES TAX - ORLANDO SIGN COMPANY OWNER, published July 6, 2014, by Mattew Parker, Esq.