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Live in Massachusetts? What You Need to Know About the “Computer Tax”

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 10.17.09 AMThere is a devastating law passed recently in Massachusetts that will not only affect the so-called fat cats of the lucrative IT industry that the legislators were aiming at, but what is very ambiguous and misleading is the very hush-hush trickle-down effect of who it is really going to impact; small businesses such as your local PC repair stores and your one-man web design business. It’s called TIR 13-10, otherwise known as the Computer Tax in Massachusetts and it just enacted on July 31st of this year, much to the amazement of both large companies and small IT companies alike, especially considering not one representative from the technology world was even involved in drafting this measure. The sad part about this is that it will have a very tragic effect on small businesses in the state. And the kicker? Even non-IT businesses such as an accountant may also be liable for this tax just for using software. Insane? We consulted Geek Girl’s own Massachusetts attorney (and huge Geek Girl supporter), Gene Curry, to help us wrap our heads around this one.

 

1.) What is TIR 13-10: the Sales and Use Tax on Computer and Software Services Law?

The tax is a 6.25%  sales and use tax on computer system design, modification, integration, installation and related services. The tax was included in the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Bill, which became law on July 24, 2013 and went into effect on July 31, 2013. The tax applies to software purchased for use in Massachusetts. TIR 13-10 is a technical information release issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to provide guidance on the tax, available at: http://www.mass.gov/dor/businesses/help-and-resources/legal-library/tirs/tirs-by-years/2013-releases/tir-13-10.html. The Department also has a list of frequently asked questions, available at: http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dor/law-changes/faqss-computer-software-2013.pdf. The Department has been adding questions to the FAQs on a regular basis, so it is a good idea to keep checking the list for additional guidance.

2.) We hear that this was created as a backlash to all the “fat cats” in the IT industry not paying their share of sales and use tax on computer hardware, but doesn’t this also hurt small businesses and the ma and pa shops who are selling to communities?

You are correct. According to WBUR, Senator Stephen Brewer, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has defended the tax saying it was appropriate to tax “a very, very lucrative industry in the Commonwealth”. I disagree. This is not a tax on the IT industry. It is a tax on everyone who purchases IT services, which is to say everyone. For example, a restaurant owner who purchased customized point of sale software will be taxed as will any small business owner who hires an IT business to install or configure software. I also suspect that many of my friends in the IT industry would not agree that it is “very, very lucrative”.

3) Ah, so, it is true that not only IT companies will be impacted, but also Any business or consumer who use any IT services will be forced to pay an additional 6.25% tax on top of their service charge, IT service providers, including software developers and Website designers, and Other service providers, (like accountants, or security camera vendors) who have nothing to do with IT?

As I said above, this is a tax on any one in Massachusetts that purchases or uses IT services. The tax does impose burdens on IT businesses that will be required to register with the Department, collect taxes, and determine which services are subject to the tax.

4.) Who came up with this legislation? And why do you think they targeted ALL IT companies, not just ones making over say a million dollars annually?

The source of the legislation is not clear. The IT community was not consulted in drafting the legislation, which is obvious to anyone who has read the legislation.

5.) What can Massachusetts businesses do to repeal this or make their voices heard?

The Cape Cod Technology Council opposed the tax and communicated its opposition to the tax to the Cape’s legislative delegation. There is a broad coalition forming against the tax including the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Cod Technology Council, the Massachusetts High Technology Council,  and other organizations. On August 7, 2013, a citizens petition was filed to place a referendum on the ballot in 2014 to repeal the tax. Businesses that oppose the tax can support the referendum effort. In the meantime, businesses can contact the state representatives and senators to express their experiences with the tax or their opposition to the tax. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue is seeking comments on the legislation, which can be provided at: rulesandregs@dor.state.ma.us.

6.) Is this happening anywhere else in the country or is this just a Massachusetts phenomena for the moment?

According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, only four other states have comparable taxes and they have lower tax rates.

7.) Do you anticipate this spreading to other states?

Hard to say. On the one hand, every state is looking for additional revenue. On the other, there are states offering financial incentives to lure technology businesses.

8.) Government officials said it should yield $160 million annually in tax revenues but business leaders contend the tax is so broadly written it will cost them some $500 million a year. Both are such polarizing assertions. Which one is more likely? (Taken from Boston Globe article)

Because of the ambiguous way the legislation is drafted, I would expect the revenues to be closer to the higher projection.

9.) Do you think this will be repealed?

I would anticipate that, as the impact of the tax is felt, the momentum will grow for repeal. I am cautiously optimistic that it will be repealed.

10.) Anything else you would like to add?

FYI here is a useful site: http://repealtheitservicetax.com/

And thank you for the opportunity to comment.

 

No, thank YOU, Gene….

-1Eugene R. Curry is the principal of the Law Office of Eugene R. Curry, located in Barnstable, Massachusetts. The firm provides business and corporate solutions for profit and non-profit organizations, including intellectual property, antitrust and trade regulation, and estate planning and administration services, with particular emphasis on the needs of clients operating in the digital environment. In addition to representing technology clients, he represents traditional Cape Cod businesses including agriculture, fishing, and manufacturing businesses. His clients range from start-ups to multi-national corporations. He serves as General Counsel to the Cape Cod Technology Council and has served as a coach for Start-Up Weekend Cape Cod.

Introducing….Sarah Johnson: Web Developer, Writer and Algorithm Wrangler

Who are you and what do you do?

Sarah Johnson, I have a web design business called etruro.com and I’m a writer as well.


What will you be teaching at Geek Girl Tech Conference this year?

SEO, Google Analytics, Writing for the Web, and WordPress Advanced

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

The people. The classes were full and people were really fired up to learn.


PC or Mac?

Definitely a Mac, though I have a lot of PC experience from corporate life.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

When I was 10 or 11 and begged for math puzzle books that were like crossword puzzles but with math and logic algorithms…early aptitude signals for programming-geek.


Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars.


Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

Emile Zola, because he’s my favorite writer these days and he was incredibly prolific and able to write his way into all kinds of characters and situations. Matt Damon, because he’s a local guy who made good-and I way over-identified with Good Will Hunting. President Obama because he’s incredibly interesting and human without having an attitude about himself, and he’s seems like he’d be a lot of fun. Bon Iver because I’m interested in his creative process, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who Truman called “The First Lady of the World” for her human rights efforts.


Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

Steve Jobs without a doubt, simplifying, innovating, inventing….isn’t everyone going to own an iPad in the next year?

 

Facebook or Twitter?

Pinterest.

 

Tell us something about you nobody knows….

Seriously, if nobody knows, there’s no way I’m going to tell 500 geek girls about it.

Introducing…Heather "Action" Jackson: Marketing Maven, Monkey Dancer and Sinatra Breakfast Buddy

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Heather Jackson and I do the monkey dance. I also own 2 marketing businesses, Hammerhead Creatives and ActionJackson Marketing. Hammerhead Creatives specializes in custom logo’d apparel and promo products- aka SWAG like the sweet thermal bags you get at the conference. Through ActionJackson Marketing I provide e-mail newsletter marketing services including presentations to businesses and associations as well as individualized training and campaign management. As an Authorized Local Field Expert for Constant Contact, I am able to offer extended services and expertise.


What will you be teaching at the Geek Girl Tech Conference this year?

Sick of spam? (Who isn’t?!?!) Want to make sure your customers don’t think your e-mails are spam? (and thus delete them.) I will be teaching you how to create, write and manage your e-mail newsletter marketing campaigns so that you can be sure your e-mails are opened, read and impactful. Topics of discussion include best practices, tips & trends, how to improve your open/click/share rates, writing killer subject lines and analyzing result. E-mail marketing is extremely powerful if done the right way. I will also be available to answer any general marketing questions as marketing is my passion.

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

The help desk is an amazing resource- to get 1 on 1 training and actually come away with something concrete is awesome. Then of course I loved the post party.

 

PC or Mac?

oohh…just switched to a Mac and having some growing pains (I need GGC help!) but love the intuitiveness of it…but I love my Android that let’s me run my business anywhere.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

When I wrapped a Geek Girl Coozie around a tasty beverage.

 


Star Wars or Star Trek?

Starfish. As a native Californian, I’d way rather be in the ocean than in the theatre. I have not missed a polar plunge in 10 years and swam every month in 2010 in Nantucket Sound (yeah- that was on a bet.) There’s a good chance I am part mermaid.

 


Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

Margaret Sanger – hugely courageous and impactful. Among her great accomplishments, her newsletter was entitled The Woman Rebel: “No Gods, No Masters.” I love bad ass women.

Stephen Colbert- There is nothing better than hanging out with smart & funny people; I put a premium on laughter. Stephen makes me laugh out loud daily; also I like to be with people who clearly love what they do (and are good at it.)

Babe Didrikson Zaharias – fellow Norwegian and amazing athlete. A world class track & field and basketball star, she was best known for her golf prowess (she was the first female to compete in The LA Open, a mens’ PGA event, in 1938, a feat unmatched for 60 years.) Babe was also an accomplished seamstress, harmonica player and pool shark; I am sure she was funny too.

Neil Diamond – if you’ve ever been to one of his shows, you’d know why. Give me some of that unbuttoned purple glitter shirt, a big bad American flag and sing me Forever in Blue Jeans or anything else. (Note: he did point directly at me and sing “I’m a Believer” in San Francisco, 1993, seat 1G; heaven in a 5 color silk shirt and black stirrup stretch pants.)

Our Hound, Miller- I’d love to know what she is really thinking (I think) and how she stays so patient and sweet in spite of all our antics. She probably has some good cat jokes too.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

Tough to go with other than Steve Jobs don’t you think? Product, strategy, branding…best in all areas. If my mom thinks an iPhone is the bees knees (and she can operate it) what more can you say.

 


Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook as long as I don’t fall into the vortex…but I do try to put my phone away when I am out with friends as they deserve my full attention.

 


Tell us something about you nobody knows….

When I was 10 my grandfather was President of the Tournament of Roses and in addition to riding in the parade on an antique fire truck, I got to have breakfast and even say grace with Grand Marshall Frank Sinatra (yes his eyes are really blue.)

Introducing….Tammi Jacobsen: Social Media Marketeer and Jedi Knight

Who are you and what do you do?

First and foremost I am a dog owner. My wonderful dog Gracie has been my inspiration for a lot of who I am and what I do personally and professionally. I am a small business advisor and social media speaker for the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network and an educator at heart. I am caring and enthusiastic in helping others to learn and succeed. My mission is to experience life through love and teaching others.

 

What will you be teaching at the Geek Girl Conference this year?

Marketing Strategies Using Social Media and Facebook for the Businesses

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

Hearing all the positive feedback from everyone who attended.

 

PC or Mac

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away! I treat myself to “Apples” (iPhone, iPad, iTouch & MacBook) everyday.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

When I created a website dedicated to my dog Gracie!

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I’ve always wanted to be a Jedi

 

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

1. Rosa Parks because her of courage on that famous bus ride.
2. Olympe de Gouges because she is one of the earliest feminists who demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men.
3. LouAnne Johnson (author & teacher) because she showed her students that their lives don’t have to revolve around the violence and poverty that they see everyday, and that they can do more than they ever thought possible if they only believe in themselves.
4. Martin Luther King so he could inspire me
5. Yoda because…well who wouldn’t want to eat dinner with Yoda!

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?


The Jetsons living in their futuristic utopia in 2062!


Facebook or Twitter?


Definitely Twitter.


Tell us something about you nobody knows….

I used to drive a motorcycle…..

Introducing…Maura Longueil: Photographer Extraordinaire and Galley Wench

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Maura Longueil and I’m a compulsively over-committed mother of three. For fun, I hoard large quantities of chocolate and gather lots of smart and crafty people around me in an effort to encourage and foster everyone’s creative spirit. In a fit of shameless self promotion, I will confess that I sell these crafty products for profit at my boutique/studio in Hanover called the {Sassy Boutique} at Abbey Knoll Photography.

And when I have a spare moment, I photograph babies, families, seniors, weddings, and a few businesses.

 

What will you be teaching at the Geek Girl Tech Conference this year?

I’ll be taking professional headshots for participants ensuring that you all look ten years younger and as thin as you were in high school (back when you thought you were fat).

I’ll also be hosting a very fun photobooth when you arrive, so practice your fish face and cartwheels.

And teaching one Google Picasa workshop so everyone can get their act together with organizing their pictures.

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

Spooning Leslie Fishlock.

 

PC or Mac?

Love/hate relationship. Love my Mac, hate the pretentious non geek girl types at the genius bar.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

When I was in 5th grade, I wrote lines of code that would make a Christmas tree made of x’s with a blinking star on top. I also wore two ponytails, pink wide whale courduroys and an argyle sweater.

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek because my mom once made me a counselor Troy costume for Halloween and by roommate bought me a chest communicator. Thanks Lars!

 

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

The entire cast of MacGyver, second season.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

Steve Jobs.

 

Facebook or Twitter?

The Facebook time suck.

 

Tell us something about you nobody knows….

I spent a summer working as a cook in a galley of a tug boat which pulled a barge carrying top secret submarine parts between Boston and Virginia leading to the little known nickname of “galley wench”, affectionately.

Introducing….Kaitlyn Pintarich: Social Media Community Manager and Legend of Zelda Zealot

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kaitlyn I’m an insurance professional (boring), the Vice President and Marketing Director/Community Manager for Berry Insurance (getting better), and one-half of the mother-son blogging dynamic duo at http://www.ItsLearningTime.com (AWESOME). I spend much of my professional time teaching local businesses about the power of social media marketing and in my spare time, I work with my 14-month old son to share our lessons learned as we navigate life as a new family.

 

What will you be teaching at Geek Girl Conference this year?

Social Media Primer, Using Video Marketing to Grow Your Business, and How to (Completely) Monopolize the Internet with Pictures of Your Child (just kidding)

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it (darn that maternity leave), but I’m looking forward to this year!

 

PC or Mac

My PC is to comfort food, as my MacBook is to an energy bar! Once you go Mac, you never go back.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

This one time, at band camp…..

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

My son is always telling me how he wants to learn the ways of the Force and become a Social Media jedi like his mother.

 

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

1. David Bowie….I’ve loved him since his Goblin King days of Labyrinth.
2. Mari Smith….her love of Facebook and all things turquoise is truly inspiring.
3. My mother back in 1968….I’d want to hear her love story with my father as it was happening!
4. Walt Disney….it’s amazing how a man and his mouse can change the world.
5. Beethoven….to learn his struggles and triumphs as one of the world’s greatest deaf composers.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

Jeff Bezos

 

Facebook or Twitter?

I was hardcore Facebook for a while, but now I’d definitely pick Twitter!

 

Tell us something about you nobody knows….

I’m not allowed to play the Legend of Zelda video games….I become obsessed and have dreams about Link

Introducing: Catherine Weber…Social Media Maven and Power Tool Junkie

Who are you and what do you do?

Catherine Weber, Geek Girl #12, I am so many things it is difficult to figure out how to start. I am an entrepreneur, passionate social media consultant and teacher. I am also an artist, a wife and mother and storyteller. That should do it for now. If you see me at the end of the day during boot camp I might tell you that I am a huge proponent of foot massage and back rubs.

 

What will you be teaching at Geek Girl Tech Conference this year?

Social media strategy for businesses, social media time management, social media speed consulting and whatever else Leslie tells me to teach (within reason).

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

Classrooms crammed with people hungry for understanding. People sitting on the desks, windowsills, and hanging from the lights (well that might have been my imagination). I LOVE our conference participants!

 

PC or Mac?

Mac convert. PC for 20+ years. Now, Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone. Don’t ask me what I would save if the house was burning down. The answer might cause hurt feelings.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

Me? Geeky? I think it was first, out of need, being my own boss. Then it was about independence, and finally passion. But having said that, it was gradual, over the last many years.

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I was neither until my son started expecting lightsaber duels. I accepted the challenge with great enthusiasm and he tells me I fight like a Sith, whatever that means.

 

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

Julia Child. (she brings the boeuf bourguignon ) – my heroine on so many levels, not to mention food.
Steve Jobs (he should bring the newest prototype and accidentally leave it behind for me) – brilliant man. I could learn so much from him.
Jerry Garcia (he brings a guitar and his voice) So love his music.
Mother Theresa (she brings her radiant self) So much to learn from her.
Billy Collins (poet, alive and well, funny, funny man, brings his sense of humor) He is talented, makes me laugh, and is the only one alive on this list.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee.
Sorry, couldn’t pick just one.

 

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook, closely followed by everything else.

 

Tell us something about you nobody knows….

I LOVE power tools.

Introducing: Laurel Ackerman….Google Girl and Han Solo Admirer

Who are you and what do you do? I’m a marketing geek (among other types of geekiness.)

I help companies connect with their customers in meaningful ways, using data to identify opportunity (or lack thereof.)

What will you be teaching at Geek Girl Conference 2012 this year?

Google Apps! Google continues to release new apps and cool new features in older apps. I’m a big proponent of productivity, and Google Apps rocks in that department.

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

So hard to say…can I pick two? One: teaching my classes; it was awesome to be helping people and answering real questions. Two: Hearing all of the buzz during and after the event about how much everybody there felt they had learned. It is amazing to be able to share what I learn every day on the job with others. Oh, and a rogue Three: the pink martinis afterward.

PC or Mac?

Both! I love both for different reasons and hop back and forth between them. I use a PC at home and a Mac for work.

When did you first know you were geeky?

Born this way! Actually, it’s when I first started studying marketing and fell in love with the numbers and the processes. It made me realize the potential to work with math and technology to influence people.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars. Han Solo is my favorite movie-star boyfriend. Although Jean-Luc Picard ranks right up there (I’m a Next Generation lady.)

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

Da Vinci: to find out EVERYTHING
Stephen King: Because I can’t even imagine what he dreams about
Tim Berners-Lee: The father of the internet; I couldn’t do have of what I do otherwise
David Bowie: Because he’s awesome.
Han Solo: See above.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?
There are probably folks who were more instrumental in building the technology behind these things, but I don’t know who they are, so: Steve Jobs: mobile apps really took off with the iPhone and have changed the way people do just about everything. Same thing with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; social behavior will never be the same.

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook for most things. I can’t keep up with Twitter and there’s too much chatter; but it can be useful for connecting with specific people or getting recommendations/asking questions.

Tell us something about you nobody knows….
Some people know this, but it’s very embarrassing for someone who works in technology…the only video games I know how to play are Pac-Man and Tetris, the old school kinds with joysticks. Also, I rely on my kids to run the A/V equipment at home; I am clueless. Hey, we need a Home Tech class!

Introducing: Lindsay Lindstrom…Microsoft Developer and Triplet

Who are you and what do you do?

Lindsay Lindstrom.  I work for Microsoft as an Academic Developer Evangelist, which means I get to work with students and faculty/teachers on using Microsoft technology as a means to reach their tech goals.  I usually say I get to talk to nerdy people about nerdy things, it’s the best job ever!

 

What will you be teaching at the Geek Girl Tech Conference this year?

I am so excited to participate in the Geek Girl Tech Conference this year!  I’ll be leading a couple of workshops on Small Basic and Game Development with XNA.  I’m also thankful to have the opportunity to kick of the conference as the morning keynote speaker.  Yikes, no pressure!

 

What was your favorite part of the conference last year?

This is my first year at Geek Girl Tech Conf!  I’m definitely looking forward to meeting people and hearing their stories.  I know that I will leave Cape Code inspired and encouraged!

 

PC or Mac?

As you probably expect, PC.  The Apple Macintosh II was the first computer I ever used, though!  My philosophy is use whatever tool you like or need to get the job done.  I love technology, so whether it’s PC or Mac, I say use what works for you.  For me, that’s a PC.

 

When did you first know you were geeky?

In 1996, I was 13, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me and my sisters during our summer break, so they put us in a week-long “Learn about the Internet” class at the local library taught by the first local Internet Services Provider.  I created my first email address on Hotmail (before it was owned by Microsoft) and my first website on Geocities.  And so it began…

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I was definitely a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan as a child.  But I like both!

 

Choose 5 people from any moment of time to have dinner and drinks with. Who would they be and why?

Jesus – regardless of your beliefs, definitely impacted many facets of society today.

Grace Hopper – Rear Admiral in the Navy, pioneer of Computer Science.  A strong, intelligent, funny woman who paved the way for all of us!  Watch her interview with David Letterman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ0g5_NgRao

Leonardo Da Vinci – Artist, Scientist and Inventor.  Just to bask in his genius.

Sir Winston Churchill – won the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”.
Princess Diana – she’s a princess!  She remained humble and used her influence to help others.

 

Who do feel has had the most impact on technology in your time?

One obvious answer is Bill Gates.  His vision of a PC in every home has pretty much come true in such a short time since Microsoft was founded in 1975.  I can’t wait to see how technology grows and changes in the rest of my life!

 

Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook.  I’m not consistent enough for Twitter, though every now and again I make an effort!

 

Tell us something about you nobody knows….

Well, none of you probably know that I’m a triplet…was born in Singapore, raised in Guam and Australia.  I moved to the US for college and here I’ve stayed (for now)!

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