A proposed sales tax in Ohio, introduced in the state budget bill in January 2017, sought to tax interior design and decoration services. The tax provision would have put Ohio’s interior designers at a disadvantage in relation to interior designers in neighboring states, as well as other design professionals whose services are not taxed. IIDA, together with the American Society for Interior Designers (ASID), mobilized a grassroots advocacy campaign and successfully defeated the proposed tax.
Here, Tamra Fuscaldo, IIDA, NCIDQ, an interior designer for healthcare, higher education, and corporate facilities, and the past president of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter, shares her experience testifying before the Ohio Legislature about the negative effects the proposed sales tax would have had on the Interior Design industry in Ohio.
IIDA: Why was it important for you to get involved and testify in front of the Ohio Legislature?
Tamra Fuscaldo: I have been in the Interior Design industry for over 25 years. I feel that it is my responsibility to stand up for our profession. We are continually misunderstood and mislabeled, and I will do whatever I can to change that narrative.
IIDA: What key points were used in Ohio that made a big impact?
TF: For the legislation involving taxing of luxury services in Ohio, the bill was written with too broad of a definition. The intent was to tax the consumers, those who might have discretionary funds, when hiring a residential interior designer or decorator, referred to as business to consumer (B2C). I wanted to make it clear that the definition included commercial interior designers, those who worked in the business to business (B2B) sector. Commercial interior designers typically have at least a four-year degree, pass the NCIDQ, and have years of specialized experience in interiors. Moreover, with this tax, project costs would rise, impacting budgets and causing small firms to lower their fees in order to compete. Essentially, this was a tax on professional services not luxury services.
IIDA: What were the keys to success in Ohio?
TF: The profession of interior design has a long way to go in terms of advocacy. The public, including our legislative representatives, do not have a clear understanding of the complexity of our industry. During our hearings, we represented the Interior Design industry well, and I hope we were able to change the perspectives of legislators who were present. Ultimately, we have to show value in our profession in a way that puts us on par with architects and engineers. The key to success in Ohio was being able to define interior design to legislators as a professional and technical industry that benefits the public.
Want to learn more about advocating for the Interior Design profession? Join us at the next IIDA Advocacy Symposium.