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Tax Notes – Massage, Bodywork, and Somatic Services

Note: Updated by Publication ANJ-25, Massage, Bodywork, Somatic Services & New Jersey Sales Tax.

Effective October 1, 2006, an amendment to the Sales and Use Tax Act imposes sales tax on the sale, except for resale, of “massage, bodywork or somatic services,” except when provided pursuant to a “doctor’s prescription.” L. 2006, c.44, section 3, codified in N.J.S.A. 54:32B-3(b)(9).

Massage, Bodywork, Somatic Services

“Massage, bodywork and somatic services” means systems of activity of structured touch which include holding, applying pressure, positioning and mobilizing soft tissue of the body by manual technique and use of visual, kinesthetic, auditory and palpating skills to assess the body for purposes of applying massage, bodywork or somatic principles. Such application may, for example, include the use of therapies such as heliotherapy or hydrotherapy, the use of moist hot and cold external applications, and external application of herbal or topical preparations.

The sales tax applies to massage, bodywork, and somatic services that are rendered in New Jersey. There is no New Jersey use tax on those services received outside the State.

For purposes of the Sales and Use Tax Act, massage, bodywork, and somatic services are not deemed to include the following: services rendered by persons licensed in the following medical and medical-related fields, when they are performing services they are authorized to perform within the scope of their licenses: medical doctors (M.D.), doctors of osteopathy (O.D.), dentists, chiropractors, physical therapists, registered nurses (R.N.), podiatrists (D.P.M.), or certified midwives (CM); or acupuncture; or cosmetic and beauty services such as manicures and pedicures, cosmetic facials and cosmetic wraps, depilatory services, hair styling, and other services that are designed primarily to enhance appearance or cleanliness.

The taxability of the services does not depend upon the type of facility where the services are performed. Massage, bodywork, and somatic services are taxable regardless of whether they are performed in a massage-only facility, a clinic, a spa, an athletic facility or other location, unless they are performed by a massage, bodywork, or somatic practitioner pursuant to a doctor’s prescription, as detailed below.

Doctor’s Prescription

For purposes of this Sales and Use Tax Act provision, a “doctor’s prescription” for massage, bodywork, or somatic services will mean direction by a licensed medical doctor (M.D.), osteopath (O.D.), chiropractor, podiatrist (D.P.M.), psychologist with a doctorate in psychology, or dentist for initiation of massage, bodywork, or somatic services for a patient for whom the medical doctor, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, psychologist, or dentist is providing treatment or consultation services within the scope of his or her license. This direction must be in writing, and must contain the following: name of patient; name and signature of referring medical doctor, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, psychologist, or dentist; purpose of the referral and description of conditions or needs to be addressed by the massage, bodywork, or somatic therapy. Massage, bodywork, or somatic services provided without a doctor’s prescription, are taxable.

Additional Information

Contracted Services and Employee Services:

The tax on massage, bodywork, and somatic services is imposed on the customer. Masseurs and other service providers who are employed to perform these taxable services do not collect sales tax from their employers on their salaries. Masseurs and other service providers who work for a professional office, athletic facility, spa, clinic, or other facility as independent contractors should not collect sales tax from the facility on the fees they charge to the facility. They should instead enter into a resale agreement with the facility, specifying that the facility, rather than the individual practitioner, will be responsible for collecting sales tax from clients on any taxable receipts for massage, bodywork, and somatic services. This agreement will take the place of a resale certificate, and copy should be retained by both the facility and the masseur or other service provider for at least four years. The individual or business billing the client for the services collects the tax.

Gift Certificates:

Gift certificates, whether for a dollar amount specified on the certificate or for a specific service, are not taxable at the time when the certificate is sold. Sales tax will be due when massage, bodywork, or somatic services are provided to the gift certificate holder, unless a doctor’s prescription for the services has been provided to the practitioner.

Massages for Animals:

The change in the law is deemed to apply only to services provided to humans. The policies regarding sales and use tax treatment of massages for non-human animals remain the same and are as follow. Massages performed by veterinarians and their staff are exempt from sales tax. Massages performed by a service provider other than a veterinarian, but prescribed by a veterinarian, are also exempt. Rub downs, calming touch techniques, and other massage-like activities performed as part of animal grooming are treated as part of grooming, which is a taxable service.

Last Updated: Thursday, 02/23/17

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