The California Office of Tax Appeals (OTA) held that a taxpayer was liable for use tax on parts used to repair equipment in California before shipping it back to out-of-state customers. The taxpayer is a distributor, retailer, and repairer of endoscopes and other medical devices, and as part of its optional lump-sum maintenance contracts, the taxpayer performed repairs at its California facility free of charge to the customers. The taxpayer purchased repair parts without tax and stored them in California. Upon completion of the repairs, the taxpayer shipped the repaired equipment via common carrier to its customers. The taxpayer did not accrue use tax on the repair parts, because the out-of-state customers were the consumers of the repair parts.

The OTA disagreed with the taxpayer’s position, instead holding that the taxpayer’s performance of the repairs was a taxable use within California. The OTA relied on two California regulations which state that a person obligated under an optional warranty contract to furnish parts, materials, and labor necessary to maintain property is deemed to be the consumer, and the repairer under an optional lump-sum maintenance contract is the consumer of the parts and materials. Therefore, the OTA held that use tax applied to the repair parts.

In the Matter of the Appeal of Olympus Am. Inc., 2023-OTA-087 (Cal. OTA Dec. 20, 2022).