Editorials

Lower the grocery tax in Kansas

Even at a no-frills grocery like Payless Discount Foods in Olathe, Kansas’ 6.5 percent sales tax on food is burdensome.
Even at a no-frills grocery like Payless Discount Foods in Olathe, Kansas’ 6.5 percent sales tax on food is burdensome. tljungblad@kcstar.com

The Kansas Legislature’s desperate decision to tax sales of food at a new high-water mark is likely to inflict more harm on rural grocery businesses, a new report says.

The study, based on research by the Kansas Public Finance Center at Wichita State University, detailed troubling effects of high food costs that were noted even before the tax climbed from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent on July 1.

▪ Kansas’ high sales tax on food in recent years cost rural grocers an average of $18,000 a year and resulted in fewer jobs at lower pay.

▪ The higher tax caused some consumers to opt for cheaper convenience food over fruits and vegetables.

A previous study, also commissioned by the advocacy group KC Healthy Kids, detailed the regressive impact of the grocerty tax. While the 6.15 rate barely registered with wealthy families, it took a noticeable bite in the income of low-income families.

Despite bipartisan attempts to create a separate rate, food ended up being part of the controversial overall sales tax increase enacted last session to protect 2012 income tax cuts that mostly benefit upper-income Kansans.

Kansas’ sales tax on food, when added to local taxes, can mean an increase of 9 percent to the grocery bill. That is believed to be the highest grocery tax in the nation.

That’s an unconscionable distinction. Kansas needs a fairer tax structure that doesn’t penalize people for eating.

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