October 11, 1995
You requested a letter ruling on the application of the Massachusetts Sales Tax, G.L. c. 64H, to sales of a product sold under the name of ***************. The product consists of a guide rail to be mounted on the wall and a push‑button controlled power grab‑bar that moves along the guide rail and extends in front of the user. The grab‑bar allows the user to control the pace of ascending and descending stairs as it moves on the guide rail by providing a pull going up and a protective restraint going down. The purpose of the product is to provide protective support to disabled persons in their effort to move up and down stairways and to reduce the risk and fear of falling.
Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 64H, Section 2 imposes a five percent sales tax on retail sales of tangible personal property, unless otherwise exempt. Section 6(1) of Chapter 64H exempts from the sales tax sales of "crutches and wheel chairs for the use of invalids and crippled persons; . . . and . . . canes . . . and patient lifts, when prescribed by a physician."
Based on the information provided, the product appears to share many characteristics with crutches, canes, wheelchairs and patient lifts. The general purpose of all of these devices is to aid persons who require some type of assistance in order to walk or remain mobile. Similarly, this product's purpose is to provide stability, support and protection for a person needing assistance either going up or down a staircase. The Department has previously ruled that shopping cart walkers are like a crutch or a wheelchair and are exempt from sales tax. See Letter Ruling 92‑5. The Department has also ruled that patient lifts such as wheelchair lifts, chair lifts, and bath lifts are exempt from sales tax, but only when prescribed by a physician. See Letter Ruling 85‑33.
Based on the facts as you state them, we determine that the sale of the product qualifies for exemption under G.L. c. 64H, § 6(1) which exempts "canes. . . and patient lifts, when prescribed by a physician." To substantiate the exemption, your company must maintain adequate records of its prescription sales and must retain copies of the prescriptions relating to those sales.
Very truly yours,
Commissioner of Revenue
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