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Philadelphia soda tax stands


 The first legal challenge to Philadelphia's soda tax has been dismissed.

Update 2.14.2017: Philadelphia's soda tax is under appeal in the Commonwealth Court. The city petitioned the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to make a final decision regarding the legality of its tax on sweetened beverages, but the Supreme Court denied the request on Monday. City officials say they will not be able to expand the prekindergarten program (which is to be funded by soda tax revenue) in the 2017-2018 school year if the case is not resolved by September. The Commonwealth Court is expected to hear arguments in early April. 

Last June, Philadelphia became the first major metropolis in the United States to approve a soda tax. The 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax applies to sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages sold within the city, and is in addition to the city’s sales tax. It's set to take effect January 1, 2017.

The soda tax proposal sparked protests in the City of Brotherly Love, and it was challenged soon after being approved. The Philadelphians Against Grocery Tax Coalition and the American Beverage Association (ABA) filed suit against the City of Philadelphia in an attempt to “void the tax.” The ABA has successfully blocked similar efforts to reduce soda consumption in other parts of the country; in 2013, it prevented New York City’s ban on super-sized sodas and sugary drinks from taking effect.

Yet on December 19, Judge Gary Glazer of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the case in its entirety, “clearing the way for the levy to take effect Jan. 1.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kennedy called the decision a “victory for Philadelphians.” He urged the soda industry “to accept the judge’s ruling and do the right thing for the children of Philadelphia.”

That’s unlikely to happen. The Philadelphians Against Grocery Tax Coalition said in a statement following the decision: "We will continue to oppose this discriminatory and regressive tax.”

See more 2017 tax changes.


Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.