You inquire whether 1) subscriptions to your client's newsletter, and 2) the sale of advertising space in the newsletter, are subject to the sales tax in Massachusetts.
Your client sells subscriptions to and advertising space in a newsletter which she publishes. The printed newsletter is folded to measure 8" x 11" and is about six pages long. The newsletter contains a calendar of events such as horse shows, riding events and fairs, and advertisements concerning riding apparel and horses and ponies for sale or lease. It is stated on the newsletter that it will be published twice a month except January, and it is in fact published and distributed according to this schedule. Presently approximately 300 residents of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire subscribe to the publication.
General Laws Chapter 64H, Section 6(m) exempts the sale of newspapers and magazines from sales tax.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that a newspaper "is distributed at periodic intervals and contains matters of interest to a significant segment of the public." Greenfield Town Crier v. Commissioner of Revenue, 385 Mass. 692, 696 (1982); 830 CMR 64H.07(l).
The term "magazine" is not expressly defined by statute or regulation. However, a "magazine" likewise must contain "news" and matters of interest to a significant segment of the public." Letter Ruling 84-8; See also Letter Ruling 84-67.
Words in statutes are to be construed according to the common and approved usage of the words. See G.L. c. 4, 6. Thus, the terms "newspaper" and "magazine" are to be accorded their common and approved meanings.
The newsletter does not resemble in format or content either "newspapers" or "magazines" according to the common and approved meaning of those terms. While it is distributed at periodic intervals, the contents are of interest to a relatively small segment of the public. See Letter Ruling 84-67.
Therefore, the sale of the newsletter is not exempt from sales tax as a newspaper or a magazine. Sales of subscriptions to the newsletter to Massachusetts residents are subject to the sales tax. Sales of subscriptions to non-Massachusetts residents are not subject to the sales tax.
Your second inquiry regards the imposition of the sales tax on the sale of advertising space in the newsletter. The sales tax does not apply to a publication's charges for advertising space. L.R. 81-95; See Sears, Roebuck & Co.v. State Tax Commission, 370 Mass. 127 (1976).
Very truly yours,
Commissioner of Revenue