Sales and Use Taxes
A company operates under a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control as a facilities-based intrastate telecommunications provider. The Company owns fiber optic cable that supports voice, data and Internet applications. The fiber optic cable is composed of long, thin strands of transparent glass or plastic that is arranged into a bundle. The fiber optic cable is contained in a conduit. The conduit is typically buried anywhere from three to six feet underground and under streets. The Company “leases” “dark fiber” and “lit fiber” to its customers, granting them exclusive use capacity rights. The Company’s customers are businesses such as banks and other telecommunications providers. A customer may not sublease, swap, assign, license, sell or share the fiber, and may not perform any repairs or maintenance on the fiber without the express written consent of the Company. The Company has sole discretion to provide alternative portions or facilities of its fiber optic network to a customer or to relocate all or a portion of its network, if circumstances require. A customer’s origination or termination point, or both, may or may not be within
“Dark fiber” is the fiber optic cable itself, provided without the equipment needed to energize (“light”) the fiber so that it can transmit communications. The Company connects the dark fiber to a customer’s location, but the customer needs to provide the transmission equipment and connect the dark fiber to the equipment in order to utilize the dark fiber. Each end of the fiber enters or exits the conduit directly from or into a limited access, secured box located in a building, at which box the customer connects its transmission equipment to the fiber. A customer may not gain access to the fiber at any location other than the secured box even though it might be accessible by the Company from a manhole or a handhole. Even if a customer could gain access to the conduit, the customer would be unable to locate its fiber because it would be grouped with many other fiber strands that are allocated to other customers.
The Company also offers several “lit fiber” services that differ from dark fiber in that the Company uses its own equipment to light fiber optic cable strand(s) for the customer. Fiber optic cable is “lit” when it is energized so that it is ready to be used by the customer to transmit data or communications. The Company’s customer connects its communications- or data-generating equipment (e.g., telephone or computer) to a transmitter provided by the Company, which translates the electronic signals it receives from such equipment into light pulses and then transmits those light pulses via the fiber optic cable.
Whether, with respect to the dark fiber, the Company is leasing tangible personal property subject to sales and use taxes.
Whether, with respect to the lit fiber, the Company is providing telecommunications services subject to sales and use taxes.
With respect to the dark fiber, the Company is leasing tangible personal property subject to sales and use taxes under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(2)(J).
With respect to the lit fiber, the Company is providing telecommunications services subject to sales and use taxes under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(2)(K).
I. Dark Fiber
Leases of tangible personal property are subject to sales and use taxes under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(2)(J). Real property, at least when the term is used in Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-407(a)(37)(I), means “property that is considered to be real property under the laws of the State of
It is essential to constitute a fixture that an article should not only be annexed to the freehold, but that it should clearly appear from an inspection of the property itself, taking into consideration the character of the annexation, the nature and the adaptation of the article annexed to the uses and purposes to which that part of the building was appropriated at the time the annexation was made, and the relation of the party making it to the property in question, that a permanent accession to the freehold was intended to be made by the annexation of the article.
Lesser v. Bridgeport-City Trust Co., 124
Fiber optic cable does not become a fixture when contained in an underground conduit. Under such circumstances, the fiber optic cable remains “free of and unattached to the realty.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(13) defines “tangible personal property” as “personal property which may be seen, weighed, measured, felt or touched or which is in any other manner perceptible to the senses. . . .” Fiber optic cable may be seen, weighed, measured, felt or touched and is otherwise perceptible to the senses. Connecticut courts have, in the past, referred to Connecticut property tax law when determining whether property was tangible personal property; see, e.g., United Illuminating Co. v. Groppo, 220 Conn 749, 601 A.2d 1005 (1992) and Andersen Consulting, LLP v. Gavin, Super.
Because fiber optic cable remains tangible personal property after its installation, its lease is taxable, and the Company’s lease of dark fiber is subject to sales and use taxes.
II. Lit Fiber
The definition of “sale” and “selling” for purposes of the sales and use taxes includes “the rendering of telecommunications service.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(2)(K). Prior to October 1, 2007, “telecommunications service” is defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-407(a)(26)(A) as “the transmission of any interactive electromagnetic communications including but not limited to voice, image, data and any other information, by means of but not limited to wire, cable, including fiber optical cable, microwave, radio wave or any combinations of such media, and the leasing of any such service.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(26) was amended by 2007 Conn. Pub. Acts 253, §32, effective
The provision of lit fiber services by the Company is a telecommunications service under the current definition because such services are the transmission of interactive electromagnetic communications by means of fiber optic cable. It is also a telecommunications service under the amended definition, because the lit fiber services are the electronic transmission, conveyance or routing of voice, image, data, audio, video or any other information or signals. Unlike the dark fiber, which is provided without any additional services by the Company and is not capable of transmitting communications until the customer connects transmission equipment to it, the lit fiber is provided with transmission equipment by the Company, and that equipment codes the data generated by the customer’s communications- or data-generating equipment and sends the communications or data as light pulses through the fiber optic cable. Thus, in providing its lit fiber services, the Company is transmitting the customer’s communications and, as such, the Company is rendering telecommunications service subject to Connecticut sales and use tax under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(2)(K).