It is time to get rid of the sales tax on groceries in Idaho.
Our organizations congratulate the legislators and governor for having the foresight to offset the burden of the tax on food with the grocery tax credit. The original intent of the credit was to create a bridge whereby both tax and tax credit could be phased out. We believe that the grocery tax credit has successfully fulfilled its purpose, and that we can now, in Idaho, pass a standalone grocery tax exemption bill.
According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, only 13 states tax groceries. Six of those states tax groceries at a rate lower than the regular sales tax; Utah, the only one of Idaho’s bordering states to tax food, is one of those states (its sales tax is 5.95 percent, with a grocery tax rate of 3 percent). All five of Idaho’s other bordering states have no grocery tax.
Exempting groceries from the state sales tax is a popular policy supported by residents across the state. Our organizations represent a large population of independent family farmers, consumers, low-income households, farmers markets, Idaho communities that border neighboring states with the grocery tax exemption, and politically engaged constituents. We are working together to bring this topic to the forefront of Idaho’s legislative priorities, and to advocate for a fair tax future for Idaho. We believe that exempting groceries from the state’s sales tax will increase access and affordability to food for all Idahoans, increase profits for our local farmers and food producers, and remove a competitive disadvantage for Idaho communities at our borders. We believe that it is time for the Idaho Legislature to allow a vote on a standalone grocery tax exemption bill.
We acknowledge that the sales tax on food makes an important contribution to the state budget. We look for a fairer future tax system that does not rely on funding state operations by taxing an essential need like food. That is why we support standalone grocery tax exemption legislation, which does not incorporate any other income or corporate tax cuts. We also encourage Idaho’s legislative body to address other tax opportunities to replace the revenue that the grocery tax currently provides.
We thank the community leaders and legislators who have pushed for a more fair tax structure in Idaho, and we look forward to working with any leaders in the state who are ready to exempt groceries from the state’s sales tax.
Ann Ford is with the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. She writes for it and the coalition of Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force, Idaho Interfaith Roundtable Against Hunger, Idaho Farmers Market Association, Idaho Grassroots Organization.