This guide is intended as a general resource. For additional details reference Iowa Administrative Rules Chapter 701-219.
This guide is intended as a general resource. For additional details reference Iowa Administrative Rules Chapter 701-219.
Anyone who provides labor and materials to build a structure is considered a construction contractor for that job, even if his or her usual occupation or profession is something else, such as a handyman.
Contractor includes a general contractor, subcontractor, or builder. The contractor can be an individual, corporation, partnership, or other entity.
A sponsor is the second party of the contract.
A construction contract is an agreement between a contractor and a sponsor to provide labor and materials to build a structure.
A construction contract always involves changing tangible, personal, or “movable” property into real estate; for example, a change of concrete block and mortar into a foundation.
Types of contracts include, but are not limited to, lump sum contracts, cost plus contracts, time and material contracts, unit price contracts, guaranteed maximum or upset price contracts, construction management contracts, design build contracts, and turnkey contracts.
For a list of activities and items that could fall within the meaning of a construction contract or are generally associated with a construction contract, see Appendix C.
See Appendix B.
How a person is classified is the basis for determining many tax obligations. It can be difficult for a person starting a business to determine if that business will be engaged in contracting, retailing, a combination of the two, or providing repair services. However, one status must be chosen from the following:
A status should not be changed unless it becomes clear that the business has become another status.
A business begins as a contracting business only. The owner begins to sell construction materials at retail and eventually the majority of the business' income is from these sales. The status changes from contractor to contractor-retailer.
Materials delivered in Iowa for use in a construction contract are subject to tax. It does not matter if the
materials purchased by a contractor are for use in construction contracts performed in Iowa or outside of Iowa.
Contractors are not allowed to make purchases for resale just because they have a sales tax permit number. Jobs for most nonprofit organizations, including churches, are not exempt. Suppliers should not accept sales tax exemption certificates from contractors, unless a designated exempt entity exemption certificate and authorization letter are provided to a contractor by a designated exempt entity.
A contractor performs new construction.
The contractor must pay tax on materials at the time they are purchased and does not collect any tax from the customer.
A contractor performs a taxable service.
The contractor must pay tax on the materials at the time they are purchased. The contractor collects tax on both the labor and the materials from the customer. Since tax was already paid on the materials when the contractor purchased them, an adjustment can be made on the sales tax return by entering the amount the contractor paid for the materials as an “other” exemption on line 4 of the sales tax return.
A person who is not in the construction business is building his or her own house.
The person must pay sales tax on the purchase price of the materials, supplies, and equipment. Owners are considered final consumers in the same way as contractors.
A contractor-retailer is a business, generally with a store front, that makes frequent retail sales of supplies and materials to the public or other contractors and builds residential or commercial structures.
A contractor-retailer must obtain a tax permit to report sales tax from retail sales and taxable repairs and to pay tax on materials withdrawn from inventory for use in a construction contract.
A contractor who rarely makes sales to individuals or other contractors is not considered a contractor-retailer
and must pay sales tax to suppliers or use tax to the Department on all purchases.
ABC Company operates a retail outlet that sells lumber and other building materials and supplies. ABC is also a contractor that builds residential and commercial structures. Since ABC is a contractor-retailer, it purchases all inventory items for resale. When using materials to fulfill a construction contract, however, ABC will need to pay tax on their cost of the materials. This should be reported as “goods consumed” on line 2 of the sales tax return. Items that are sold by ABC are subject to sales tax at the over-the-counter selling price.
EFG Company is a mechanical contractor and has no retail outlets. EFG rarely sells any of its inventory to
other persons or contractors; therefore, EFG is not considered to be a contractor-retailer. Since EFG is
considered to be a contractor only, it must pay sales tax to its suppliers when it purchases building supplies
and materials. On those rare occasions that EFG sells an item to another person or contractor, EFG must
collect sales tax on the selling price. EFG must have a sales tax permit to report this tax. Since tax was already paid on the item when EFG purchased it, an adjustment can be made on the sales tax return by entering the amount EFG paid for the item as an “other” exemption on line 4 of the sales tax return.
Home Town Construction Company is owned and operated by two individuals in a rural Iowa farming
community. They do not have a retail outlet but they frequently make sales of building materials from their
inventory to local residents. Home Town Construction Company is a contractor-retailer because of the
frequency of the sales and should purchase all inventory for resale. Items that are used in construction
contracts are subject to tax on Home Town’s buying price at the time they are withdrawn from inventory. Items that are sold are subject to tax on the selling price.
Down Home Construction Company is operated by two individuals in a rural Iowa farming community. They do not have a retail outlet and rarely sell building materials from their inventory. Because its sales are rare, Down Home is considered a contractor only and must pay sales tax to its suppliers when making purchases. However, since Down Home makes occasional sales, it must have a sales tax permit to collect and remit the tax on those retail sales.
Intown Home Construction Company places modular homes on slabs or basement foundations, makes electrical, plumbing, and other connections, and otherwise prepares the modular homes for sale as real estate. Intown also has a sales tax permit, maintains an inventory of modular homes for sale, and sells homes from the inventory as tangible personal property to owners who later convert the property to real estate. Intown is a contractor-retailer and is obligated to pay tax when a modular home is withdrawn from inventory for use as material in a construction contract. It must collect the sales tax when the home is sold directly to an owner.
Smith’s Plumbing has a retail store in Davenport, but they also install plumbing fixtures and lines in new construction and remodeling projects. As a contractor-retailer, plumbing supplies that are taken from their inventory for a new home being built in Rock Island, Illinois, are exempt from sales tax because the construction contract is outside of Iowa. However, those supplies may be subject to Illinois use or sales tax.
To determine if your business is strictly repair, see Is the Job a Repair?
If materials and labor are itemized separately on the bill to the customer, businesses that perform only repair jobs:
If the repair company does not itemize materials and labor on billings, it will:
Sales by Manufacturers
If primarily a manufacturer
Tax is computed on “fabricated” costs. Fabricated costs include both direct and indirect expenses. This includes the cost of all materials, labor, power, transportation to the plant, and other plant expenses such as overhead, but it does not include installation on the job site.
If primarily a contractor
Tax is computed on the cost of raw materials.
A manufacturer performing new construction does not collect sales tax from the final customer.
A manufacturer performing a taxable repair service may withdraw materials from inventory tax free. Tax is collected from the final customer on the labor and materials.
When tangible personal property is used by a manufacturer in construction contracts outside of Iowa, no Iowa sales or use tax is due.
Taxable services related to construction contracts
Taxable services are exempt when...
...performed on or connected with new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion,
or remodeling of buildings or structures
Repair remains taxable
Taxable services performed in repairing tangible personal property and real property remain taxable. Repair of machinery on the job site is taxable.
Services never subject to sales tax
See Appendix A.
“Repair” means mend, restore, maintain, replace, or service. A repair restores an existing structure that has been damaged.
When in doubt, a construction contract should be treated as being a taxable repair. If it is later determined that reconstruction rather than repair occurred, the sponsor may apply to the Department for a refund of tax paid.
Replacement, repair, or restoration of:
If it is, the labor is exempt from sales tax. This exemption applies to real property and structures only. It does not apply to tangible personal property.
The contractor is responsible for paying tax to the supplier on materials.; The contractor does not charge tax to the customer on the labor or materials.
Examples of new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion, and remodeling activities.
For example, the service of excavating and grading of land to clear it for construction of a building is exempt because it is done in conjunction with new construction. However, excavating and grading land without the intent of construction is taxable.
For example, if land is graded to seed a new lawn following construction, the service is exempt from tax. If, however, the lawn does not grow and the land is regraded the following year, the service is taxable because it is not performed in conjunction with new construction.
If a building is constructed for machinery, installation of the machinery is exempt. For example, piping services that join two pieces of equipment in separate buildings are exempt if the equipment in either building is installed while new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion, or remodeling to the structure is also taking place.
The “size” of a job should be considered when deciding if the job is a repair or new construction. For example, replacing damaged or missing shingles on a roof is repair and taxable; recovering an entire roof is construction and exempt.
For example, if a building’s existing furnace is not defective, but the owner of the building has a new, more energy efficient furnace installed, the service is reconstruction or remodeling. However, if the building’s furnace is defective, the replacement of the furnace is a repair.
A contract that qualifies as a capital improvement is not automatically treated as construction. The totality of the project must be considered in making that determination.
If this happens, the contractor must itemize the bill and charge sales tax on repair labor.
A homeowner hires a contractor to add a new room to the existing home. This service is exempt as new construction. However, the home also needs restoration of its original wiring and replacement of a broken window. These are repairs and the labor and materials are taxable.
Designated exempt entities include only the following:
Designated exempt entities may issue exemption certificates to contractors and subcontractors, allowing them to purchase or withdraw from inventory building materials for the contract free from sales tax.
This special exemption certificate also allows a manufacturer of building materials to consume materials in the performance of a construction contract with a designated exempt entity without owing tax on the fabricated cost of those materials.
These charges are not subject to Iowa sales or use tax if they are separately contracted for or if the charges are separately itemized on the bill.
The new construction exemption does not apply to gambling boats. Gambling boats are tangible personal property, not real property. The builder of the boat is considered a manufacturer, not a contractor.
Tax must be collected on taxable services performed on the boat.
When resold, the new owner does not pay the 5% use tax again.
“Installed purchase price” is the amount charged by building contractors to convert manufactured housing from tangible personal property to realty. This includes, but is not limited to, amounts charged for installing a foundation and electrical and plumbing hookups. It does not include any amount charged for landscaping in connection with the conversion.
Sectionalized housing and panelized construction are considered prefabricated structures but not manufactured or modular homes. Sales tax is due as with typical construction projects.
Machinery and equipment that do not become real property (remains tangible personal property after installation) must be purchased for resale by providing the supplier with a valid sales tax exemption certificate. Contractors who sell machinery or equipment that is not exempt from tax must then charge sales tax as part of the contract. The contract must either itemize sales tax separately or state that sales tax is included in the contract price. The contractor must have a sales tax permit.
When a construction contract is mingled with a machinery and equipment sales contract (a mixed contract), the two parts should be separated for sales tax purposes. In these contract situations, the contractor is the consumer of the construction materials and is also a retailer of the machinery and equipment. The contractor is required to pay tax on building materials and collect tax from taxable customers on the machinery and equipment.
Company A contracts with Company B to build a new building and install all of the machinery and equipment. Company B pays its suppliers sales tax on all building materials and supplies. Company B also purchases refrigeration units that will remain tangible personal property after installation. Company B buys these units tax free for resale since they will be resold to Company A; Company B will then charge Company A sales tax on the units.
For a list of property that under normal conditions remains tangible personal property after installation, see Appendix D.
Items that are manufactured as tangible personal property can become structures. The determination is made on an item-by-item basis.
A farm silo, which is a prefabricated glass-lined structure, is intended to be permanently installed. The silo is 70 feet high and 20 feet around, weighs 30 tons, and is affixed to a concrete foundation weighing 60 tons that is set into the ground for the specific purpose of supporting the silo. The assembly kit includes 105 steel sheets and 7,000 bolts. The silo can be removed without material injury to the realty or to the unit itself at a cost of $7,000. In view of its massive size, the firm and permanent manner in which it is erected on a substantial foundation, its purpose and function, the expense and size of the task, and the difficulty of removal, it is considered a structure and not machinery or equipment.
Sales or use tax is computed on the actual selling price of the taxable purchase. The rate for sales and use tax is 6%.
When the tax is imposed determines whether it is a sales tax or a use tax. View additional permit requirements.
Sales tax is imposed when property is delivered in Iowa.
Sales tax is applied when taxable goods are delivered and when taxable services are first used, or potentially could be first used. The Iowa seller of the items must obtain a sales tax permit and is primarily responsible for collecting, reporting, and remitting the tax to the Department. In addition, a local option sales tax may apply to sales or services, depending upon where the sale is occurring.
Use tax is imposed when property is purchased for use in Iowa but no Iowa sales tax has been paid.
Two types of use tax are recognized by the State of Iowa: retailer’s use tax and consumer’s use tax. The difference between the two is the person responsible for remitting the tax.
Iowa retailer’s use tax is collected by out-of-state retailers on their sales of goods and taxable services to persons who will use those goods and services in Iowa. If the out-of-state retailer is not required to collect Iowa tax, anyone purchasing goods or taxable services from that retailer for use in Iowa is obligated to pay consumer’s use tax at the rate of 6% when those goods or services arrive in Iowa.
In addition to the 6% state sales tax, local jurisdictions may impose a local option sales tax (LOST).
Within a county, some cities may have the local option tax, some may not. Also, the unincorporated area of a county may or may not have the tax. The rate is 1%.
The list of local option tax jurisdictions is updated in June and December.
If a contractor receives taxable goods or makes, or potentially could make, first use of taxable services in a local option jurisdiction, the tax must be paid. If a contractor receives taxable goods or makes, or potentially could make, first use of taxable services outside a local option jurisdiction for use inside a jurisdiction, the local option tax of the jurisdiction in which the taxable goods are delivered or where taxable services are first used, or potentially could be first used, is due.
Self-propelled building equipment, pile drivers, motorized scaffolding, or attachments customarily drawn or attached to them, including auxiliary attachments which improve their performance, safety, operation, or efficiency and including replacement parts.
These must be used directly and primarily by contractors, subcontractors, and builders for new construction, reconstruction, alterations, expansion, or remodeling of real property or structures.
When these items are rented to contractors for use in connection with new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion, or remodeling, the rental payments are exempt from tax.
If a local option tax is imposed after a contractor enters into a written contract, the contractor must pay the local option tax applicable at the time it purchases building materials. The contractor may then apply for a refund of the additional local option sales tax based on certain conditions.
A subcontractor who is providing materials and labor on the actual construction of a building or structure has the same tax responsibilities as a general contractor.
Machinery and equipment sold by material suppliers to subcontractors are sold for resale, and the subcontractor must provide the supplier with a valid sales tax exemption certificate. The subcontractor must have a sales tax permit.
A general contractor is not responsible for the tax liabilities of a subcontractor.
Iowa contractors who are also retailers must have a sales tax permit.
Out-of-state contractors required to be registered must have a retailer’s use tax permit.
View additional permit requirements.
Iowa contractors filing consumer’s use tax returns must report and pay the tax in the period in which the materials were removed from inventory or brought into Iowa from out-of-state.
Penalty or interest may apply if you fail to file a return on time or if you fail to pay the tax due.
Penalties can be waived only under special circumstances. Interest cannot be waived.
See Penalty and Interest.
All businesses should keep records for at least three years. Business records of contractor-retailers must clearly show whether or not inventory items taken out of stock were retail sales or used in construction contracts.
All contractors who work in the state of Iowa are required to register with the Iowa Division of Labor Services (515-242-5871) regardless of the size of their jobs before they begin construction work in Iowa. General contractors, prime contractors, and subcontractors are included in this requirement.
An out-of-state contractor may also be required to file a bond, which will be released only after debts owed to the state resulting from covered work are paid.
For more information or to register online see: Iowa’s Contractor Law – Registration and Bonding
In addition to registering with the Iowa Department of Revenue for corporation income tax, contractors doing business as a corporation should register with the Iowa Secretary of State, Corporations Division, at 515-281-5204.
The following are exempt from Iowa sales or use tax when they are performed on or in conjunction with new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion, or remodeling of a building or structure. In all other circumstances, such as repair work, they are taxable.
General contractor services: If the service is not taxable, list separately on bill
Architect services: Never taxable, list separately on bill
Engineer services: Never taxable, list separately on bill
Repair of machinery used on the job site: Taxable.
The term “building materials” means materials used in construction work and incorporated into real property. It is not limited to materials used in constructing a building. It may also include any type of materials used for improvement of the premises or anything essential to the completion of a building or structure for the use intended. Carpeting is not considered to be a building material.
The term “building supplies” means anything that is furnished for and used directly in the carrying out of the work of an owner, contractor, subcontractor, or builder and is consumed entirely. Such items do not have to enter into and become a physical part of the structure like materials, but they do become as much a part of the structure as the labor performed on it.
The term “building equipment” means any vehicle, machine, tool, implement, or other device used by a contractor in erecting structures for others, or reconstructing, altering, expanding, or remodeling property of others that does not become a physical component part of the property upon which work is performed and is not necessarily consumed in the performance of such work.
The contractor must pay sales, use, or excise* tax on any purchases of building equipment but may rent building equipment exempt from tax.
Rental of the following are exempt when directly and primarily used in new construction, reconstruction, alteration, expansion, or remodeling. This list is illustrative, not exclusive.
*Instead of the 6% state sales/use tax (and local option tax where applicable), a 5% state excise tax applies to purchases of the following specific construction machinery and equipment:
When a construction contractor rents a portable toilet for use on a construction site, the sales price for the rental of the portable toilet is taxable. Because portable toilets are not building materials, supplies, or equipment as described above and do not improve the performance of the machinery or equipment used in construction, they are subject to tax.
When a portable toilet rental company also sells waste removal services and itemizes that service separately on an invoice, the waste removal service is not subject to tax: sewage sludge is excluded from the definition of “solid waste,” the removal of which is otherwise taxable under Iowa Code section 423.2(7). However, if the rental company does not separately itemize the waste removal service and the portable toilet rental in a contract to provide such products and services, the entire sales price is taxable as a bundled transaction under Iowa Code section 423.2(8).
Carpeting is considered to be tangible personal property, not a building material. When contractors are building spec homes, they are the consumers of carpeting and must pay tax to their suppliers.
Contractors may purchase carpeting for resale and provide the seller with a sales tax exemption certificate. If contractors purchase carpet tax free for resale, they must collect tax from the final consumer.
Contractors must have sales tax permits to purchase carpet tax free for resale.
Carpet installation is exempt from sales tax. However, the bill must be itemized to show that sales tax is being charged on the cost of the carpet only. If the installation charge is not separately itemized, the entire bill is subject to sales tax.
Floor coverings other than carpeting are considered to be building materials if they are shaped to fit a particular room and are permanently attached to the floor. When this occurs, they are taxable in the same manner as building materials that are used in the performance of a construction contract.
Sales of linoleum and other types of floor covering other than carpet that are not attached but simply laid on finished floors are subject to tax unless purchased for resale.
The sales price of the sale of sod, dirt, trees, shrubbery, bulbs, sand, rock, woodchips, and other similar landscaping materials are subject to sales or use tax when used for landscaping and sold to final consumers. The final consumer means the owner of the land or a general building contractor.
When a landscaping contractor uses materials to fulfill a contract, the landscape contractor is considered the retailer of the landscaping materials and is obligated to collect sales tax on the selling price from the final consumer.
A sodding contractor furnishes and installs 20 yards of sod at $20 per yard for a total of $400. The sodding contractor also charges the customer $24 sales tax (6% x $400).
XYZ Company landscapes a new office building. XYZ furnishes the shrubs at $25 each, white rock for $5 per bag, and woodchips for $4 per bag. Under a separate contract XYZ installs all of the landscaping materials for a fee of $25 per hour. XYZ’s taxable sales price include the shrubs, white rock, and woodchips. The labor charge is exempt because the taxable service of landscaping is performed on new construction.
Sales of uncut sod and unexcavated trees, shrubs, and rock are not subject to sales/use tax. They are considered to be the sale of real estate.
The following is a partial list of activities and items that could fall within the meaning of a construction contract or are generally associated with a construction contract. The list is illustrative only and should not be used to distinguish machinery and equipment from real property or structures since those determinations are based upon the facts of each situation.
The list is not complete and is for illustrative purposes only.
The list is not complete and is offered for illustrative purposes only.