By Jessica Kerner and Open Weaver Banks

The South Carolina Department of Revenue determined that charges for a web-based application used to process insurance claims are the sale of a non-taxable data processing service rather than a communications service. The company providing the service collects claims information for a customer from the customer’s insurance carrier(s), ensures the information is accurate and complete, reaches out to the insurance carrier when needed, and transforms the information into a standardized format. The completed claims are loaded into a computer database and delivered to the customer through the Internet. The customer pays for the service based on the number of claims managed, the number of insurance carriers used, the number of users accessing the system, and the amount of time/effort needed to perform the services. The Department based its conclusion that the service is a non-taxable data processing service on the fact that the seller manipulates the customer’s insurance claim information, and the customer accesses the online system to obtain the information that has been manipulated by the seller. The Department further explained that if the seller did not manipulate the customer’s insurance claim information and only provided a service that allowed the customer to access a website to use software to enter its own claim information, keep track of the information, create reports, i.e., perform its own data processing of its information, then the service would be a taxable communications service. SC Private Letter Ruling #14-5 (December 10, 2014)