Wisconsin exempts transfer of medical records

Patients often have to pay to obtain a copy of their health-care records, and in some states, that charge is taxable. In Wisconsin, it is not.

As of June 23, 2017, the sale, storage, use, or other consumption of patient health-care records is exempt from Wisconsin sales and use tax, provided the buyer is the patient or a recipient authorized by the patient (2017 Act 17). The electronic transfer of medical records is the sale of an intangible and is therefore not taxable in Wisconsin.

The need to clarify the taxability of this service may have arisen from past attempts by the Department of Revenue to tax it. On Aug. 15, 2015, the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission ruled in Cannon & Dunphy, S.C. vs. Wisconsin Department of Revenue that sales and use tax does not apply to the transfer of health-care records to patients.

The true objective test

The case arose after the Department of Revenue held individuals liable for use tax on purchases of paper medical records. It maintained that photocopying the records was a taxable service because photocopying “falls under the definition of photography,” which is a taxable service.

The Tax Appeals Commission disagreed. It held that the petitioner “did not purchase the photocopying services but rather the services of production of the details of patients’ medical care, which is not a listed taxable service.” The true object of the transaction was medical care, not photocopying; the “documentary record of [the medical] services is intimately entwined with the provision of health-care services and would not exist had services not been rendered.”

The taxability of the transfer of medical records varies from state to state, and may even vary depending on who performs the service and who receives the records. For example, medical records in Louisiana are exempt when provided by a medical provider to a patient but taxable when provided by a third party to a hospital.

Learn more about the taxability of services here.

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