Evan Smith: Fairley says that there isn't a tax on groceries

Sunday, October 24, 2010

By Evan Smith

ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

TV ads tell us that Initiative 1107 would “stop a tax on groceries.”

I asked State Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, Friday if the tax on candy had become a tax on groceries because there’s some confusion on what is candy.
“Nope,” she answered. “We didn’t even have to decide what is candy and what isn’t. That national board did.”
“That national board” is the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, which defines candy as, 
“any preparation of sugar, honey or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings in the forms of bars, drops or pieces” — sugary items that don't include flour.

As a result, the Seattle Times noted October 22, a Twix bar, which contains flour, isn't taxed while some types of nutrition bars that contain no flour may be taxed. It’s strange, but, as Fairley noted, in line with the national board.

An October 13 Everett Herald news story said that the Board has tried to bring uniformity to tax rules.
The Herald said the national board definition is "why products most people think of as candy, such as Kit Kat candy bars, are not considered candy for purposes of the tax, while some energy bars are defined that way.”
Initiative 1107 seeks to repeal an $800 million tax package that included adding a sales tax on candy, soda pop and bottled water.

The tax is about 2 cents per can of soda. Taxes on candy are intended to be permanent, while all the others are scheduled to expire July 1, 2013. The state expects it would bring in about $300 million in three years.

The initiative also aims to cut state business taxes for some manufacturers of processed foods.
The Seattle Times article called the ad “mostly false” because “the taxes affect only a narrow range of products most people would consider food or groceries.”
The Times said that about 96 percent of the tax money comes from levies on soda, water, candy and gum.

The rest comes from elimination of business-and-occupations tax breaks that a few Washington food processors had used.

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