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Sears Home Services at Home in Seattle

  • Feb 11, 2015 | Gail Cole

 Seattle: home to Amazon's headquarters and a new Sears Home Services office.

You may not often have occasion to say “Sears” and “Amazon” in the same breath, but that’s about to change. Soon, in Seattle, you’ll be able to walk from Amazon’s global headquarters to the new Sears Home Services business engineering office.

Amazon is creating a state-of-the-art campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union, situated at the north end of the city’s downtown. When complete, it will feature three interconnected glass biospheres and towers with space for more than 9,000 employees. With temporary digs in place, it is already drawing a plethora of talent to the once somewhat downtrodden area.

Sears is renting space not too far away in the Columbia Center, the tallest building in the northwest. In addition to boasting big views, the future space will “lead an effort to upgrade the technology and user experience for the Sears Home Services business.” They’re the people you call when your refrigerator no longer keeps the milk cold and your washer no longer makes the clothes clean (GeekWire).

Sears Home Services is, according to its parent company, “the nation’s largest provider of residential services such as appliance repair, furniture cleaning, home remodeling, maintenance and other forms of home improvement.” It is responsible for more than 13 million house calls annually and it wants (needs) to bring this part of the business “into the modern era of technology.”

The move to Seattle will help Sears Home Services achieve its goals--technology being essential to success. One current job listing speaks of a need to “make a positive impact on millions of Sears customers by applying machine learning technologies to enrich each customer experience.” GeekWire reports that to date “at least three former Amazon executives” have been hired.

Sales tax implications

If improving customer experience is important, so is ensuring each customer is charged the proper amount of sales tax for each transaction. The taxation of the services provided by Sears Home Services varies widely from state to state. Applying the proper rate to taxable transactions in each location is every bit as essential as streamlining the service itself.

In Washington State, for example, services subject to retail sales tax include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • “Installing, repairing, cleaning, improving, constructing and decorating real or personal property for others
  • Constructing and improving new or existing buildings and structures
  • Cleaning, fumigating, razing or moving structures, including painting and papering, cleaning and repairing furnaces and septic tanks, and snow removal
  • Sales of extended warranties
  • Renting or leasing tangible personal property
  • Maintenance agreements”

See RCW 82.04.050 for additional information.

In Massachusetts, however, a service transaction is not subject to sales under the following circumstances:

  • “The real object of the transaction is the service itself, and no transfer of tangible personal property occurs.
  • The real object of the transaction is the service itself, and an inconsequential transfer of tangible personal property occurs, and the service enterprise does not separately state the purchase price of the property on the bill to the customer. In this case the service enterprise pays the sales tax when the enterprise purchases the property from a vendor.”

See 839 CMR 64H.1.1 Service Enterprises for additional information.

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photo credit: Seattle Skyline via photopin (license)

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.