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Baby Products: WIC and Sales Tax

  • May 2, 2013 | Christina Lengyel

Prices in the baby aisle may make a person wonder how anyone can afford to shop for two. To say children are expensive is an understatement. Luckily, lawmakers know that. Their help in this department doesn’t end with the dependent section of income tax returns, either. This two-part blog is going to examine the ways the law accommodates those shopping for little ones.

WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) is a national program providing aid for low-income families in attaining nutritious food and quality healthcare. While the program is federal, each state dictates the items it will allow consumers to buy with WIC funds, so keeping up with WIC laws can be a monumental task for retailers. While it may be easy for independently owned stores to keep track of what their state allows, for larger businesses it takes countless hours of sifting through inventories and ingredients and comparing them to the law state by state.

First and foremost, most fresh fruit and vegetables are eligible everywhere, so you can take a deep sigh of relief when confronted with the produce section. From there on out, things get a little hairier. Baby food, juice, bread, milk, cheese, and frozen fruits and vegetable complicate things a little. In many states, like Connecticut for example, frozen vegetables are allowed but white potatoes and anything with additives are specifically excluded. Some places accept only store brands. Others allow name brands. Sometimes the packaging comes into account. In Minnesota, frozen fruit is allowed but not if it comes in a plastic tub. To complicate matters further, states frequently update their position on these products, so if you don’t have someone doing it for you, it’s essential that you stay up to date with your local WIC website.

Part Two

After learning how WIC helps families provide food for young children, let’s consider other baby items in the eyes of the law. Since the widespread shift from cloth to disposable diapers, baby diapers have become one of the biggest shopping expenses for those with infants and toddlers. Fortunately for parents in states where clothing is exempt, diapers fall under that category. States that exempt most clothing include Alaska, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode  Island, and Vermont, and in New York clothing is subject to local tax. If you don’t operate in any of those states, baby products from diapers to bottles (excluding medical or food items) are fair game for taxing.

If you operate in Minnesota, however, parents are rewarded for the bold feat of raising children in the cold by sales tax exemptions for a number of products. According to their health product exemptions, breast pumps, baby bottles and nipples, pacifiers, teething rings, and infant syringes are free of sales tax. Some of these products, especially teething rings, I have found come with interesting names, so when scanning through an inventory, be sure to keep an eye out for anything that sounds like it might be related to baby. Everyone knows you can find Elmo’s furry little face on all manner of items, so make sure you know exactly what it is before you tax it.

photo credit: amy_b via photopin cc

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Christina Lengyel
Avalara Author Christina Lengyel
Christina Lengyel is a writer by trade and has found herself in taxes by way of research. As an analyst, she has tracked down thousands of products by UPC in order to determine when and where they are taxed.