header US capitol

 

In spite of my New Hampshire upbringing, or maybe because of it, I learned at a young age that politics is not an acceptable topic for conversation (unless you’re certain everyone at the table agrees with your views). Then I married a man who likes nothing better than a spirited political disagreement, and I gained an appreciation for the complexities and subtleties of politics.

The combination of politics and tax? Now that’s taking complexity to a whole new level.

The game is on

Take a current event in Nebraska, where Senator Dave Bloomfield (R) is seeking to eliminate the sales and use tax exemption for prepared food, food ingredients, and food sold at political events held by ballot question committees, independent committees, and political party committees.

In introducing LB 689 this year, the senator reportedly told the Revenue Committee, “Everybody else pays taxes. I don’t know why political people should be exempt.” In response to certain fiscal concerns, he noted the unlikelihood that a tax on food sold at political events would be a financial hardship: “When we have a $500-a-plate fundraiser, we’re not taking that money from poor people.”

According to its fiscal note, LB 689 would have “a small but positive impact on the General Fund.” However, some worry that it would have unintended negative consequences. Sen. Mike Gloor “questioned whether it could inject more money into political races by forcing candidates to increase their fundraising to cover the additional expense.” And Sen. Al Davis worried that event organizers would “skirt the law by seeking a donation for the event itself and providing food for free.”

Politicians aren’t the only people who qualify for a tax exemption on food. The law

[link] also provides sales and use tax exemptions on food for other groups, including hospital patients and elderly persons.

It does not, however, provide an exemption for food sold by veteran service organizations, which is wrong, according to Senator Bloomfield.

Right wrongs

To right that wrong, in 2015 Sen. Bloomfield introduced LB 191, which sought a sales and use tax exemption for “food sold by veterans service organizations.” LB 191 was referred to the Revenue Committee shortly after its introduction and there it stalled. Last month it was carried over to the current legislative session.

According to Senator Bloomfield, LB 689 is a direct product of LB 191’s neglect:

“I told the committee at the hearing that if we could not exempt this small group [veterans] then maybe we should reevaluate whether or not political functions should be exempt.”

It seems the only thing more complicated than politics or sales tax is the combination of the two.