HARTFORD – A policy statement released last week by the state Department of Revenue Services (DRS) explained how the new 7.35% “meals” tax included in the 2020-21 budget passed by majority Democratic legislators will be applied to a long list of food items that have never been taxed before when sold in grocery stores. State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), Ranking Member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, called the tax a “surreptitious, backdoor way” into taxing food items that unsuspecting residents had expected to remain exempt from this year’s new state tax laws.
On June 3, when majority Democratic legislators passed the 2020-21 state budget, they included a change in taxes on prepared meals. At the time, they labeled it as a 1% tax increase on items already taxed at 6.35%, including all food items sold by restaurants and eating establishments. Now the DRS statement has clarified that the new 7.35% tax will also apply to many food items that have always been exempt from taxes when sold in supermarkets and grocery stores.
The tax will apply to not only prepared meals such as sandwiches, deli salads, pizza, rotisserie chickens, and hot buffet items, but also to containers of lettuce, small packages of snacks, loose baked goods, wrapped salads, small servings of ice cream, and meal replacement bars. It also applies to fountain drinks including coffee and any beverage sold with a taxable “meal”.
“Back in February, Governor Lamont fielded the idea of expanding the sales tax to groceries, but due to a massive public outcry, he reconsidered. Now we know that, in the end, majority Democrats accomplished much of what the governor had been attempting to do all along, just more discretely,” Rep. Lavielle said. “If you thought that most of what you were buying at the grocery store was not considered a prepared meal, think again. From October 1, you’ll likely see a noticeable increase in your grocery bills. People like seniors on fixed incomes, students with limited budgets, those who work long hours and often buy food to go, and those living alone who buy food items in small quantities will be hit especially hard. Next time you visit your neighborhood supermarket looking for a quick, economical meal after a long day at work, beware the grocery tax in disguise.”
State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents the 143rd House district, which includes parts of Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport. An Assistant Minority Leader, she is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee and a member of the Education Committee and the Transportation Committee.
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Following are excerpts from the recent policy statement issued by the Department of Revenue Services.
DRS Examples of Taxable “Meals” (taxed at 7.35% in eating establishments AND grocery stores):
- Sandwiches, grinders, and wraps;
- Popsicles, ice cream cones, cups, sundaes, and other individual servings of frozen desserts unless sold in factory prepackaged multi-unit packs;
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other frozen desserts sold in containers of less than one pint;
- Salads sold at salad bars;
- Lettuce or greens-based salads sold in containers of 8 ounces or less;
- Salads that are not greens-based (macaroni, potato, pasta, fruit, etc.) sold in containers of 8 ounces or less;
- Donuts, muffins, rolls, bagels, and pastries (5 or fewer);
- Cookies sold loose (5 or fewer when cookies are sold by quantity, or less than 8 ounces when cookies are sold by weight);
- Pies or cakes by the slice;
- Prepackaged or factory-sealed bags or packages of 5 ounces or less of chips, popcorn, kettle corn, nuts, trail mix, crackers, cookies, snack cakes, or other snack foods, unless sold in factory prepackaged multi-unit packs;
- Pizza, whole or by the slice;
- Cooked chicken sold by the piece, including buckets of chicken, and whole cooked chickens;
- Cooked ribs sold by the piece or portion and whole racks of ribs;
- Hot dogs served on a bun or heated;
- Bagels that are individually prepared;
- Soup sold in containers of 8 ounces or less, unless sold in factory prepackaged units;
- Meal replacement bars;
- All beverages provided with the sale of a taxable meal;
- Food sold at a hot buffet;
- Food that is cooked to order;
- Popcorn, kettle corn, nuts and any other snack foods that are kept warm for purchase; and
- Items such as salads, side dishes, and rolls, when sold as part of family pack meals typically including, whole chickens or buckets of chicken, when prepared and sold for immediate consumption, even when the items exceed the weight or quantity limits specified above.
DRS Examples of Taxable Drinks (taxed at 7.35% in eating establishments AND grocery stores):
- Beer, including nonalcoholic beer; & wine
- Fruit juices, sweetened beverages, soft drinks, and soda;
- Carbonated water;
- Coffee or tea (ready to consume, hot or iced);
- Distilled alcohol such as brandy, rum, whiskey, gin, vodka, and tequila;
- Fountain drinks of any kind;
- Hard cider;
- Kombucha tea, and other naturally carbonated beverages;
- Malt liquor;
- Hot chocolate;
- Syrup-flavored crushed ice drinks.