Kansas Food Fight
- Jan 13, 2016 | Gail Cole
Groceries in more than two dozen states are exempt from sales tax. Several states subject them to a reduced rate. The full sales tax rate applies to groceries in Kansas and its neighbor Oklahoma, but if certain Kansas lawmakers have their way this session, the rate will decrease in Kansas.
Prior to January 2013, elderly and disabled low-income individuals and low-income individuals with dependents under the age of 18 could obtain a refund for Kansas sales tax paid on food. That food sales tax refund program was repealed.
A proposal in 2015 to raise the general sales tax rate to 6.85% from 6.15% included a reduced rate (5.9%) for food and food ingredients. A different proposal sought to increase the general rate to 6.55% and eventually drop the rate for food to 4.95%. Still another measure sought to eliminate the state sales tax on fresh fruit and vegetables. Ultimately, the state rate (including the rate for food) was increased to 6.5%.
According to estimates by state officials, reducing the sales tax on groceries by 1% would cost the state approximately $66 million per year. Kansas isn’t in a position to pass on revenue these days, so any new proposals to reduce or eliminate sales tax on groceries will be challenged. That said, many Kansas lawmakers support the idea.
The new legislative session has just begun, and already Rep. Mark Hutton (R-Wichita) has filed a bill seeking to decrease that tax on groceries to 2.6%. House Bill 2444 would eliminate the business non-wage income tax exemption and reduce the sales tax rate on food to 2.6%. If approved as written, the change would take effect July 1, 2016.
The measure is likely to garner the support of the advocacy group KC Healthy Kids, which has long lobbied for a reduced sales tax rate for groceries.
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