Sitting Fees (includes “session fees,” “shooting fees,” etc.)
Photographers sometimes charge a separate sitting fee to their customers. This fee may also be referred to as a session fee, shooting fee, etc. For purposes of this guide we will use the term “sitting fee” when referring to these charges.
Portrait photographers, wedding photographers, and similar businesses that sell photographs to customers must collect and remit sales tax on all sitting fees. These sitting fees are for services rendered in respect to tangible personal property in the case of prints, or services rendered in respect to digital goods when the photographs are delivered electronically. In each case the charges are subject to the Retailing B&O tax, and the seller must collect and remit sales tax. In this context, “selling photographs” refers to sales of both digital photographs and prints, but does not include income in the form of royalties as described elsewhere in this guide and in RCW 82.04.2907. Photographers that are selling the right to further exhibit their photographs do not need to collect sales tax on such charges (see “Sitting fees and royalties” below).
Photographers who charge sitting fees to customers but do not (for any reason) make subsequent sales of photographs to the customer may request a ruling from the Department on the taxability of their sitting fees.
Note: Photographers that make digital photographs available to customers for download for no separate charge are selling photographs (see examples 2 and 4 below).
Sitting fees and royalties: Income derived from licensing agreements (where the photographer grants the customer certain well-defined rights to use the photograph for further commercial display) is subject to Royalties B&O tax. This includes any separate charges for sitting fees. Thus photographers that solely license their work to others for further commercial display will report their sitting fee income under the Royalties B&O tax classification, and are not required to charge sales tax on such fees. Compensation for the use of intangible property is further explained under “Licensing of Photographs” in this guide.
Example 1: ABC Photography charges a sitting fee to Customer, and later provides proofs on their website for Customer to view. Customer is under no obligation to purchase any photographs at the time the sitting fees are charged, and Customer will be charged separately for digital photographs if they later decide to purchase any. ABC Photography must collect and remit sales tax on the sitting fees charged to Customer. ABC Photography’s sitting fees are subject to sales tax consistent with RCW 82.04.192(6)(b)(iv)(B).
Example 2: ACE Photography charges Customer a session fee. In return for the session fee Customer receives ACE Photography’s services to include taking the photos, editing the photos, and posting of the photos in digital format on ACE’s website. Customer is then provided a password allowing them access to the photographs on the website, where Customer may download the photographs (or not) at their convenience. There is no additional charge to Customer for downloading the photographs. ACE Photography’s fees are subject to sales tax consistent with RCW 82.04.192(6)(b)(iv)(B).
Example 3: ACME Photography takes school portraits for Customer and charges a sitting fee for this service. Prints will be sold to Customer as a separate charge. ACME correctly charges sales tax to customer on these sitting fees, which are services rendered in respect to imprinting tangible personal property (the prints).
Example 4: ACE Photography charges a sitting fee to Customer, and the photographs are made available for download from a third party’s website. ACE Photography pays a subscription fee to the third party for this service. Customer may download photographs at their convenience from the third party’s website for no additional charge.
ACE Photography must collect and remit sales tax on the sitting fees charged to Customer. ACE Photography’s sitting fees are subject to sales tax consistent with RCW 82.04.192(6)(b)(iv)(B).