DRS: Ruling 92-12, Sales and Use Taxes / Prostheses

 

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE SERVICES

450 Columbus Blvd
Hartford CT 06103
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

This Ruling has been obsoleted by AN 94(5)

Ruling 92-12

Sales and Use Taxes
Prostheses


FACTS:

A person incurs hair loss, as a direct or indirect result of a disease. The person purchases a wig that is custom-made for those suffering total hair loss


ISSUE:

Whether sales of wigs and hairpieces are exempt from sales and use taxes as medical devices or prostheses under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-412(19).


DISCUSSION:

Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-412(19) provides an exemption from sales and use taxes for

sales of artificial devices individually designed, constructed or altered solely for the use of a particular handicapped person so as to become a brace, support, supplement, correction or substitute for the bodily structure, including the extremities of the individual; [and] sales of artificial limbs, artificial eyes and other equipment worn as a correction or substitute for any functioning portion of the body. . . .

Conn. Agencies Regs. 12-426-14(5) excludes from the exemption sales of "items ordinarily used as cosmetics or beauty aids, adjuncts or supplements."

The relevant inquiry in this Ruling is whether, for purposes of the Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-412(19) exemption, a wig or hairpiece is either a "supplement, correction or substitute for the bodily structure," or "a correction or substitute for any functioning portion of the body."

Initially, the principle of statutory construction governing tax exemptions should be noted. In Plastic Tooling Aids Laboratory, Inc. v. Commissioner, 213 Conn. 365, 369 (1990), the Supreme Court of Connecticut observed:

First, statutes that provide exemptions from taxation are a matter of legislative grace that must be strictly construed against the taxpayer. Second, any ambiguity in the statutory formulation of an exemption must be resolved against the taxpayer. . . .

Absent specific definitions of terms in a statute or regulation, it is reasonable to examine the words surrounding those terms for guidance. As the Supreme Court noted elsewhere:

"Assistance in ascertaining the legislative intent is afforded by resort to the familiar maxim of noscitur a sociis. Through use of this aid the meaning of a word or a particular set of words in a statute may be indicated, controlled or made clear by the words with which it is associated . . ." [Citations omitted.]

State v. Roque, 190 Conn. 143, 152 (1983). (Noscitur a sociis is a Latin phrase meaning, "it is known from its associates."

The term "bodily structure" is not defined in the statute or regulation; however, from the other terms used in association with it, it appears that the legislature intended to exempt only artificial devices designed to substitute for or support the major movable components of the human body (the torso, arms, legs and head) or the internal organs or appendages thereof. Conn. Agencies Regs. 12-426-14(4) lends support to this interpretation, in that its list of artificial devices is limited to items used in some way to support, correct, or substitute for major body components or internal organs or appendages: trusses, abdominal supports, uterine supports, maternity supports, obesity supports, kidney supports, postoperative supports.

A similar analysis is required for the exemption in the second half of the statute for sales of "artificial limbs, artificial eyes and other equipment worn as a correction or substitute for any functioning portion of the body." In addition to artificial limbs and artificial eyes, Conn. Agencies Regs. 12-426-14(5) lists, as exempt, artificial dentures, eyeglasses, lenses and frames, but excludes such items as cosmetics, beauty aids, cotton, gauze and adhesive tapes. The necessary implication here is that a "functioning" part of the body means a limb, organ or other essential body part, and that items designed for topical application or for cosmetic purposes are not exempt.

Viewing Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-412(19) in light of these principles of statutory construction, sales of wigs and hairpieces do not qualify for the exemption from sales and use taxes, even when sold to persons afflicted by a disease, a direct or indirect result of which is hair loss. Instead, wigs and hairpieces constitute cosmetic-type items designed for topical application.


RULING:

Wigs and other hairpieces are not included within the scope of the exemption provided in Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-412(19).


EFFECT ON OTHER DOCUMENTS:

Ruling 90-53 is revoked and may not be relied upon on or after the date of issuance of this ruling.


LEGAL DIVISION

July 21, 1992