By Nick Kump and Charlie Kearns

The Iowa Department of Revenue issued a policy letter declaring that the delivery of a digital software key on a tangible card is exempt from sales tax, as long as the software itself is delivered digitally and there is not a separate charge for the key. Iowa Code section 423.3(67) exempts from sales tax the “sale price of a sale at retail if the substance of the transaction is delivered to the purchaser digitally [or] electronically . . . .” However, under Iowa Admin. Code r. 701-231.14, even if a product is ordered digitally or electronically, the sale of the product is not excluded from sales tax if the product is delivered by conventional, physical means such as common carrier. The Department compared the conventionally delivered digital software key to the electronically delivered software, and concluded that even though the customer could not access the software without the digital key, the software was the “substance of the transaction.”  Therefore, the entire transaction was exempt from sales tax. Sales of Software in Iowa, Iowa Dept. Rev. Policy Letter, Document No. 15300041 (Sept. 30, 2015) (released Nov. 2, 2015).