Washington state ponders sales tax

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Thursday, January 31, 2002

EUGENE, Wa. - Washington providers have their fingers crossed that state legislators will vote to repeal the sales tax on durable medical equipment this month.

"We're optimistic that this baby is going to fly," said Tom Coogan, a member of the Pacific Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (PAMES) Sales Tax Exemption Committee. "This bill has a good feel about it."

While eliminating the sales tax on home medical equipment would benefit providers, it would also help beneficiaries and others who pay cash for the taxable items, Coogan said.
With financial support from a number of manufacturers and state HME providers, the committee has hired two full-time lobbyist to push its bill, and state officials appear to favor it. But because the governor wants to decrease the budget there is still some uncertainty, Coogan said.

Washington's current tax law is confusing, excluding some kinds of home medical equipment but not others. Currently, home oxygen, ostomy supplies, diabetic supplies, orthotic and prosthetic devices are exempt. Other items like CPAPs, nebulizers, wheelchairs, hospital beds and walkers are taxable at 8.7% to 8.9%, depending on the county.

Washington is one of only a handful of states that don't exempt home medical equipment from sales tax. Eliminating the tax would cost the state $3.4 million every two years. HME

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