Paying for the right to eat.

I’m up in Kansas City hanging out with Dr. Dave, his girlfriend (and long-time friend of mine) Ashley, and soon Michaelyn.  I’ve been sprinting like a maniac the last few days, so we’re going to spend a night in eating pizza and playing Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

We went to pick up pizza from Papa Murpy’s and I got charged sales tax.  In Ohio this doesn’t happen on food.  At that moment I was reminded how stupid it is for the government to charge its citizens for the right to eat.

That should get fixed.

Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
You guys are wonderful.
PERSONAL: The corrupting power of fame and my love for my commenters.
PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Talynknight

    It might depend on the food you are eating. At least in Illinois I know food sales tax is only on what is considered non-essentials. So, milk, bread, and other grocery store items are tax free, but fast food and other things do have sales tax.

    This setup still disproportionately affects those that do not have time to cook at home because they work multiple jobs for instance just to get by, but it isn’t across the board paying taxes for food.

    Then again, I agree that all food should be tax free. Either way enjoy the pizza. :-)

  • Azkyroth

    In California, at least, prepared food, soda, and alcohol are taxed, but food you take home and make yourself generally isn’t. I’m not sure exactly what the distinctions are.

    • IslandBrewer

      Also food in restaurants – it’s a tax on the service (and preparation). Takeout counts as restaurant food, too. But yeah, the tax is technically on the “service”, alcohol, or the “so-sugary-it’s-not-really-food” tax on candy and soda (oddly, sugar doesn’t get taxed by this – presumably because it’s used for “legitimate food” preparation).

      • Kodie

        In Massachusetts, I’ve heard it categorized under entertainment if you buy your food in a restaurant, and groceries aren’t taxed. You’re paying for the luxury of eating out or the convenience of taking out, this is more fun for you than staying home and making food yourself.

      • Kodie

        Also in Massachusetts, alcohol isn’t taxed, although we did briefly have a tax which was removed again after people just drove up to New Hampshire for their booze to avoid paying it. I think the tax was put to a vote and it had passed, but reality demonstrated it to be not a good thing. New Hampshire doesn’t have sales tax, but someone told me they tax weird things instead to raise revenue, like how good a view you get from your house, which tends to place more of the burden on rich people who can afford such a good view. I don’t know if they tax take-out food or sit-down restaurant meals.

      • Azkyroth

        Restaurant food is “prepared,” isn’t it?

  • H.H.

    In Ohio you pay tax on fast food if you dine in the restaurant but not if you order the food to go.

  • Dale

    In Texas, food bought at a grocery store is not taxed. Food bought at a restaurant is.

  • Sithrazer

    In Michigan you pay sales tax on prepared foods, like at restaurants, and liquor, but not on grocery items. Soft drinks have a deposit on the container, but you can get that back by returning the empty container to the bottle return. I’m not sure on beer/wine.

  • invivoMark

    Sales taxes in general tend to be regressive taxes – that is, the less you earn, the more they hurt you. There are good arguments for eliminating sales taxes completely, not just on food.

    Sales taxes on food don’t bother me especially much, since sales taxes tend to be fairly small, so one’s food expenses for a year will stay very close to the same regardless. Food producers and resellers would be likely to change some of their prices when food sales tax is eliminated, so it might even have a greater effect on these companies than it does on underprivileged consumers. And I don’t know if this effect would be for better or for worse.

    Taxes tend to have complicated effects, so while I agree with the principle that all people should have access to enough food and nutrition, I can’t whole-heartedly support this particular approach. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily disagree with it, either.

  • Joey Maloney

    Ten percent sales tax on all groceries in Alabama.

  • jatheist

    That’s standard for us Canadians… sigh. I do like our social programs – but the tax might be a tad high up here.

  • Benjamin

    In Maryland, sales of food are subject to sales and use tax unless bought at a grocery store or market for consumption off the premises and is not a taxable prepared food.

  • John Horstman

    Here in WI (and specifically Milwaukee County, though a number of other counties did similar things), we recently increased our tax on prepared food, the idea being (as mentioned above) the the service is being taxed and not the food itself. Basic foodstuffs are not taxed, whether it’s you or the restaurant buying them at the grocery store. This makes sense to me, as you’re presumably using the streets/sidewalk to get to the restaurant and enjoying the protection of the health inspectors and legal system that make sure that your food being prepared by someone else is safe and that you’re not being scammed by the restaurant through false advertising or being charged for items you didn’t order (the restaurant pays taxes on its payroll, profits, and property because it also enjoys the benefits of our infrastructure that make its existence possible).

  • Rufus

    Nice to know that over the water in the UK we can still out-complicate you. Over here basic food is zero-rated but “luxury food” is taxed. This has lead to some interesting legal debates about what constitutes a luxury food, the most famous of which is Jaffa Cakes:

    Chocolate covered biscuits are a considered a luxury food, however chocolate covered cakes are considered a basic food. The company that makes Jaffa Cakes finished up going to court to demonstrate that for all their biscuit-like appearance, they are in fact cakes.
    Their (succesful) arguement was that when biscuits go stale they go soft, but when cakes (of whatever size) go stale they go hard (as do Jaffa Cakes).

    Their final, clinching exhibit was to produce for the court a “cake-sized” Jaffa Cake to the exact same recipe as the biscuit sized ones that are sold to the public…

    • Stogoe

      Yes, the old Jaffa Cakes riddle.

  • Loqi

    WI has a few food items that are taxed. I’m not sure what the criteria are that make something taxable, but my rule of thumb is if it falls into the top section on the old-school food pyramid, it’s taxed. Things that could go into other categories but are of little nutritional value, such as ice cream, get the benefit of the doubt, unless they’re considered a convenience item (a gallon of ice cream is not taxable, but a single serve cup is).
    Now that I’m in MN, I’m not sure whether there’s a sales tax on food. I guess I’ll have to watch my receipt the next time I go shopping.

  • Heather

    I’m pretty sure that here in Missouri we’re taxed on all food. At least, I know that when I’ve gone and just bought groceries, I definitely come out paying more than just the actual price of the food.

  • Stan

    In OK, tax on everything at a cool 9%ish. Food (prepared or not), clothing, sundries, drinks, everything. We have fairly low property taxes as a result.

  • Stogoe

    I love Betrayal at House on the Hill! Do you have the old edition or the re-release?

    • JT Eberhard

      Re-release. I live large.