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Declaratory Rulings

State of Rhode Island - Division of Taxation

Declaratory Rulings

Ruling Request No. 94-01

 

Re: Request for Ruling Regarding the Taxation of Bibles and Other Canonized Scriptures

 

Request for Ruling

Taxpayer requests a declaratory ruling concerning the taxation of bibles and other canonized scriptures under the sales and use tax law. This request is made pursuant to R.I.G.L. 42-35-8 and the Rhode Island Superior Court Order in Ahlburn, et al v. R. Gary Clark, Tax Administrator, R.I. Superior Court, Providence County, No. P.C. 93-4595 (November 3, 1993).

 

Facts

1. That the petitioner is a retailer of books located in Providence, Rhode Island;
2. That said retailer sells bibles and other canonized scriptures;1
3. That on January 1, 1993, the R.I. Tax Administrator caused sales tax Regulation SU 92-136 to be duly promulgated and filed with the R.I. Secretary of State's Office. Regulation SU 92-136 states in its entirety:

REGULATION SU 92-136

BIBLES AND OTHER CANONIZED SCRIPTURES

The sale, storage and use or other consumption in this state of bibles or any other canonized scriptures is subject to tax notwithstanding the provisions of R.I.G.L. Code Section 44-18-30 (HH)*. Such bibles and other canonized scriptures are subject to tax in accordance with the United States Supreme Court's decision in Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 1989.

R. Gary Clark
Tax Administrator

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 1993
*Section 44-18-30 (HH) has been recodified as 44-18-30 (EE).

 

Ruling Requested

The petitioner seeks a ruling to determine whether it should charge and collect a Rhode Island sales tax on its retail sales of bibles and other canonized scriptures. The petitioner also seeks a declaration of unconstitutionality as to R.I.G.L. Section 44-18-30 (EE).

 

Discussion

R.I.G.L. 44-18-30 provides in its pertinent part:

44-18-30. Gross receipts exempt from sales and use taxes. -- There are exempted from the taxes imposed by this chapter the following gross receipts:
* * *
(EE) Bibles. From the sale and from the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of any canonized scriptures of any tax exempt nonprofit religious organization including but not limited to the old testament and new testament versions.
* * *

The petitioner, as a seller of books, alleges that it cannot determine which sales should be taxed or exempt from taxation.

 

Ruling

1. The petitioner, as a retailer, is required to charge and collect a Rhode Island sales tax to its customers upon each sale of a bible and/or other canonized scriptures pursuant to Regulation SU 92-136.
2. Questions regarding the constitutionality of laws are reserved to the judiciary. Accordingly this office cannot issue an opinion as to the constitutionality of the challenged statute.

R. Gary Clark
Tax Administrator


>1It is noted that the instant request for ruling and supplemental letter do not mention whether the petitioner is presently charging a sales tax on bibles and/or canonized scriptures or whether petitioner is presently exempting same from the provisions of the sales/use tax law or whether it has made sales of bibles and/or canonized scriptures at all since the promulgation of Regulation SU 92-136.