On October 1, shoppers will be paying a 7.35% tax on some groceries, but not others. In the latest budget, the tax exemption for groceries was quietly altered. When some Democrats proposed raising the tax by one percent on meals at restaurants, they justified the increase as a luxury tax.

Eating out is a choice, and if people can afford to go to a restaurant, they should not feel the impact of a one percent tax on meals. When the language was drafted, however, they included “grocery stores” as one of the entities that sell meals subject to additional taxation. Meals unfortunately is defined as all “food products which are furnished . . . in a form and in such portions that they are ready for immediate consumption.” Every food product, therefore, in a grocery store is now subject to tax scrutiny.

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides

So what foods at a grocery store are in a form that is immediately consumable? The Department of Revenue Service has issued a non-binding, advisory opinion which lists some examples, such as five or less muffins, doughnuts and bagels, salads in packaging 8 ounces or less, cans of soup, nutrition bars, cooked rack of ribs or rotisserie chickens, sandwiches, and Popsicles. Because this opinion is advisory only, grocery stores are left to determine what items will be subject to tax. With a possible tax audit over their shoulder, grocery stores are going to err on the side of caution and put a 7.35% sales tax on any items that might fall under this definition.

…five or less muffins, doughnuts and bagels, salads in packaging 8 ounces or less, cans of soup, nutrition bars, cooked rack of ribs or rotisserie chickens, sandwiches, and Popsicles.

To add more confusion, if a shopper purchases any of these items along with sodas, bottled water or other beverages, those beverage items will now become taxable at 7.35% whereas if purchased alone, they’d be subject to no taxation. Why? Because the new law taxes all “meals” sold by a “grocery store” “and spirituous, . . . soft drinks, sodas or beverages . . . in connection therewith.” So now the new taxation may impact other items in your cart because of something else in your cart.

Because this 7.35% tax on groceries targets small portioned food items, I am concerned for what this means for the people and families of Connecticut. What will be the impact on our senior citizens, empty-nesters and young men and women living alone? Over the last decade, Connecticut’s tax policy has crept into every moment of our daily lives and driven long-time residents to move out of state. I share the public’s frustration with these regressive taxes and the government’s continued need for more of your hard- earned tax dollars. Please call your legislators and tell them exactly how these taxes will impact the lives of you and your family.

Themis Klarides is Republican Leader of the Connecticut House.

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  1. Maybe if the Republican Party bothered to propose an alternative budget this year, confusion like this would be avoided by better vetting of the proposal. Instead the party (which I am a member of) chose to do their usual stand there and just criticize, criticize, criticize. Maybe our state would be better if the party changed that to compromise, compromise, compromise, something positive would actually happen but egos seem to continually stand in the way of the overall good of the state.

    1. Jay. With overwhelming dems majority in the GA and gov. Why should they bother doing a budget. No dems was going to give it the time of day anyways. A couple of years who the GA did pass a Republican budget but Malloy didn’t care. They are such a minority now it doesn’t matter. Believe me I wish there was compromise as well but

      1. Help us in CT – Maybe they should have prepared an alternative budget since that is what they were elected to do. I am a Republican but I am also their biggest critic. More Republicans don’t get elected here because they don’t deserve to be. You can’t keep nominating candidates that are so out of touch with today’s voter and expect to be elected. You also can’t keep criticizing and expect voters to go along with you. And nothing gives you nothing and that’s pretty much what the party will continue to get.

  2. There should be ABSOLUTELY ZERO NEW taxes in grocery stores, end of story. Once we introduce this type of “wack a mole” taxation it is only a matter of time before another item pops up and is added to the list or the 7.35% goes up. Death by a thousand cuts is still death.

  3. Public Act 19-117 consists of 580 pages, so someone at DRS had to comb through it to make the determination of what items fall into the category of “prepared meals” and must be taxed at the higher rate. And get it done in a timely fashion so that the retailers have time to get their systems reprogrammed.

    Wonderful. So rather than update or revise PA 19-117, the governor feels that an executive order will have (and maintain) the legal status to clarify the intent of the act.

    I think not. We have just seen the unintended consequences of this act. Any change in leadership of the DRS could result in yet another interpretation in the future, and could easily question the legality of the governor’s executive order.

    I say:
    Call the Special Session.
    Suspend the implementation of the sales tax called for in the Act.
    Resolve the Unintended Consequences.
    Clearly spell out the intent in unambiguous language.
    Adjust the effective date.
    Now git’ur’done.

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