- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho House committee is endorsing a bill exempting prescription eyeglasses and contacts from the state’s sales tax.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted Thursday to add prescription eyeglasses to a list of other medical devices - such as hearing aids, braces and crutches - currently not taxed.

“Eyeglasses and contacts are indeed a medical device,” said Kris Ellis, a lobbyist for Idaho Optometric Physicians. “Those of us who use them rely on them just as much as somebody who might rely on a cane or a walker.”

Glasses would be exempt in fiscal year 2016 and contacts would fall under the exemption the following year.

The bill is estimated to cost the state more than $2.8 million in revenue per year.

Ellis said that optometrists usually write a prescription for the whole unit, which includes both the lenses and the frames. Sales tax would still apply to the frames if the patient opted to buy special frames with jewelry or to use in sports, she said.

Other glasses that don’t need a prescription - like generic reading glasses- would still be taxed.

The proposal now moves to the full House for approval.

Two optometrists who testified supported the plan, citing confusion over how much and whom to tax under the current law.

Jennifer Holman from Eagle said that it wasn’t clear whether she was supposed to charge tax on the full retail price or just on what the patient and insurance companies paid.

The committee also voted to eliminate sales taxes for businesses on personal hand tools for less than $100. The bill would cost the state $1.5 million per year in lost sales revenue.

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