By Charles Capouet and Open Weaver Banks
The Alabama Department of Revenue has proposed an amendment to the state’s rental tax regulation. If finalized, the regulation would tax the rental of “digital transmissions,” such as “on-demand” movies, television programs, streaming video, streaming audio and other similar programs, regardless of the method of transmission or the length of time of the rental. The proposed amendment would also reach certain cable television boxes and related accessories. By statute, the rental tax is levied on persons engaged in the business of leasing or renting tangible personal property. The regulatory proposal would treat cable or satellite television providers, online movie and digital music providers, app stores, and other similar providers of digital transmissions as engaging in the business of leasing tangible personal property and would subject them to the rental tax. The proposed regulation would also apply the rental tax to multipurpose cable boxes that function as digital video recorders or perform other functions in addition to accessing basic cable. Under the proposal, cable television boxes that are used solely to access basic cable are not subject to the rental tax. The Department has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the proposed regulation expanding the scope of Alabama’s rental tax for April 8, 2015. Prop. Ala. Admin. Code r. 810-6-5-.09 (2015).