Call to Reduce Kansas Food Tax
- Feb 11, 2016 | Gail Cole
Update: Kansas HB 2444 died in committee.
There are 105 counties in Kansas, and 40 of them share at least one border with a neighboring state: Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska or Oklahoma. That means it’s easy for many Kansans to cross into another state for staples like groceries, which are subject to a 6.5% sales tax rate in Kansas (plus applicable local taxes) — the highest in the region.
The tax on food ingredients/staples is lower in surrounding states:
- Colorado: exempt
- Missouri: 1.225%
- Nebraska: exempt
- Oklahoma: 4.5%
As Ashley Jones-Wisner, state policy manager for KC Healthy Kids, says, “For Kansans living near the border, it pays to leave their state to buy food.”
And leave they do, according to a report released by the Kansas Public Finance Center at Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs. The report uses data from 2012 and 2013 to examine “disparities of tax treatment across borders,” with a focus on food items and alcohol. It compares “a county’s food tax rate with the average taxes in adjacent counties in all dimensions (north, south, east and west).”
Statistical analysis suggests “that food tax rate differentials negatively affect food consumption: for every 1 unit increase in the tax difference index, food sales volume drops 9.769% per person per year.” It continues: “Food sales in Kansas appears to be relatively responsive to price changes, and thus for bordering counties consumers appear to readily shift their purchases to lower tax jurisdictions.” Consumers in interior counties also travel to adjacent counties with lower tax rates to shop.
KC Healthy Kids, which released the report, is urging lawmakers to “exempt groceries from the state sales tax and keep shoppers and their money in Kansas.”
There is support in the capital to at least decrease the tax rate on groceries. House Bill 2444 would reduce the rate on food to 2.6%. The measure has been referred to the Committee on Taxation.
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