Guest Commentary, Part Three: Lower the Food Sales Tax

Ashley Jones-Wisner, KC Healthy Kids
December 12, 2016

Cost is one of the biggest barriers to accessing healthy food in Kansas. The evidence is mounting, and Kansas residents and lawmakers have started to pay attention as KC Healthy Kids has led the charge to get rid of Kansas’ tax on groceries.

Studies show that Kansas’ current state sales tax rate on groceries of 6.5 percent is hurting working families who are already strapped when it comes to purchasing food. And Kansas shoppers don’t just pay the 6.5 percent state sales tax when they shop – they pay that PLUS whatever the local city/county sales tax is when they shop for groceries. That can add up fast – as high as 11 percent of grocery purchase totals for some Kansans.

KC Healthy Kids commissioned a series of white papers from Wichita State University’s Public Finance Center. The papers explored the economic impact of the tax on low-income families, rural grocery stores, and the border effect. You can read the series on our website. Here is what they found:

  • Kansas is losing money because residents are crossing state lines to shop. Larry Adams of Phillipsburg is on a fixed income and combines grocery shopping with doctor visits in Nebraska. Read Larry’s Story.
  • Kansas’ rural grocery stores are failing. Tim White of Hiawatha spent six years trying to keep his grocery store open. He found out his customers’ money would go further across the state line and his store closed. Read Tim’s Story.
  • The sales tax disproportionately impacts low-income and rural residents. The purchase of groceries consumes a higher portion of low-income households’ disposable income. Read more.

What Kansas Lawmakers are saying
Republican or Democrat. Moderate or conservative. Kansans on both sides of the aisle agree that there is an issue that needs to be fixed: taxes on food. KC Healthy Kids sent a survey to every candidate running for the 165 seats in the Kansas Legislature.

They found something almost everyone could agree on: 100% of respondents would support a reduction or elimination of the state sales tax on food sold at farmers markets and at grocery stores. 

While Kansas faces a dire set of revenue shortfalls, the situation creates the opportunity for Kansas legislators to restore tax equity and balance while searching for new dollars. Lowering the sales tax on food would benefit all Kansans, especially those who are struggling to feed their families. Food is not a luxury item and shouldn’t be taxed as such.

To learn more, read the “Lower the Food Sales Tax” one-pager.

Lisa OwenGuest Commentary, Part Three: Lower the Food Sales Tax