Ruling Request No. 94-04

Declaratory Rulings

Ruling Request No. 94-04

Re: Request for Ruling Regarding the Taxation of Bibles and Other Canonized Scriptures

Request for Ruling

Taxpayer requests a declaratory ruling concerning the taxation of bibles and other canonized scriptures under the sales and use tax law. This request is made pursuant to R.I.G.L. 42-35-8 and the Rhode Island Superior Court Order in Ahlburn, et al v. R. Gary Clark, Tax Administrator, R.I. Superior Court, Providence County, No. P.C. 93-4595 (November 3, 1993).


  1. That the petitioner purchased a bible and that the purchase was not taxed;1 2. That on January 1, 1993, the R.I. Tax Administrator caused sales tax Regulation SU 92-136 to be duly promulgated and filed with the R.I. Secretary of State's Office. Regulation SU 92-136 states in its entirety:




The sale, storage and use or other consumption in this state of bibles or any other canonized scriptures is subject to tax notwithstanding the provisions of R.I.G.L. Code Section 44-18-30 (HH)*. Such bibles and other canonized scriptures are subject to tax in accordance with the United States Supreme Court's decision in Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 1989.


R. Gary Clark

Tax Administrator

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 1993

*Section 44-18-30 (HH) has been recodified as 44-18-30 (EE).

Ruling Requested

The petitioner seeks a ruling to determine whether he should have paid a Rhode Island sales tax on the purchase of a bible. The petitioner also seeks a declaration of unconstitutionality as to R.I.G.L. 44-18-30 (EE).


R.I.G.L. 44-18-30 provides in its pertinent part:

44-18-30. Gross receipts exempt from sales and use taxes. -- There are exempted from the taxes imposed by this chapter the following gross receipts:

* * *

(EE) Bibles. From the sale and from the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of any canonized scriptures of any tax exempt nonprofit religious organization including but not limited to the old testament and new testament versions.

* * *

The petitioner claims confusion surrounding the taxation of bibles and canonized scriptures and requests the Tax Administrator to declare R.I.G.L. 44-18-30 (EE) unconstitutional citing Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989).


1. The instant petitioner was required to pay a Rhode Island sales tax on his purchase of a bible pursuant to Regulation SU 92-136.

2. Questions regarding the constitutionality of laws are reserved to the judiciary. Accordingly this office cannot issue an opinion as to the constitutionality of the challenged statute.

R. Gary Clark

Tax Administrator

December 7, 1994

1It is noted that the within request for ruling neglects to mention whether the purchase of the bible was prior to or subsequent to the issuance of the Regulation SU 92-136, infra. The request for ruling further fails to state where the bible was purchased and to provide a receipt of said purchase as well as the alleged nonpayment of sales tax.