Document Number
Tax Type
Retail Sales and Use Tax
Desktop publishing: Newspaper advertisements, stationery/business cards, press releases
Taxability of Persons and Transactions
Date Issued
November 7, 1988

Re: Ruling Request/ Sales and Use Tax


This will reply to your letter of August 30, 1988 seeking a ruling on the application of the retail sales and use tax to************** ( taxpayer).

As a public relations/communications agency, the taxpayer provides desktop publishing services to clients in the production of informational newsletters and brochures for professional and trade associations; designs advertisements for publication in newspapers of general circulation; designs stationery and business cards; and prepares and mails press releases to the general media.

You ask whether the taxpayer must charge sales tax for the design and production of informational newsletters and brochures for clients, and whether the printer of such newsletters and brochures must also charge sales tax for printing the final product. You also ask whether the application of the tax would differ if the taxpayer's client was a nonprofit organization.

Further, you ask whether the taxpayer's design of advertisements, stationery, business cards and press releases would be subject to the same rules as its design and production of newsletters.

Newsletters/ Brochures

In accordance with the enclosed June 29, 1988 ruling, the taxpayer is providing an exempt personal service under Virginia Code §58.1-608(2), when it provides desktop publishing services in the production of informational newsletters and brochures for clients. However, as stated in this ruling, if the taxpayer also bills its clients for the production of multiple copies of such newsletters and brochures, (whether or not the taxpayer itself actually produces such copies), it is engaged in making retail sales of tangible personal property, and must add the tax to the total charge for such items, including charges for design, formatting, etc. Of course, the taxpayer may purchase any of such multiple copies from third party printers. pursuant to resale certificate of exemption, Form ST-10.

Moreover, there is no general exemption from the sales and use tax for nonprofit organizations. Therefore, the total charge for multiple copies of newsletters and brochures, whether billed by the taxpayer to a nonprofit organization, or by the printer directly to such organization will generally be taxable. (See enclosed Virginia Regulation 630-10-74)

However, from July 1, 1986 through June 30, 1990, letters, brochures, reports and similar printed materials are exempt from the tax provided they will be stored in Virginia for less than 12 months and will be distributed for use outside Virginia. (See enclosed Virginia Regulation 630-10-86(9) for further details.)

Newspaper Advertisements

In accordance with the enclosed August 18, 1988 ruling, the taxpayer is the provider of an exempt media advertising service when it designs advertisements for clients for placement in newspapers of general circulation. Therefore, the total charge by the taxpayer for the production of such advertisements is not; subject to the tax. However, as further indicated in this ruling, the total charge for any printing or other tangible items purchased by the taxpayer in producing or placing such advertisements in the media would be subject to the tax.

Stationery/ Business Cards

For the reasons given in the enclosed August 18 ruling, the taxpayer's total charge to clients for the design/production of stationery or business cards is subject to the tax.

Press Releases

The tax applies to the composition and production of press releases in the same manner as the newsletters and brochures described above.

I hope that the foregoing has responded to your questions, but let the department know if you have any further questions.


W. H. Forst
Tax Commissioner

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Last Updated 09/16/2014 16:40