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RHUer Question: Tax On Food?


Jason NyerpGrocery Store Slave here with yet another question. This just happened today and it stumps me. I will start with what happened first.

So it's just another day in the deepest pit of grocery store hell with the usual going on when I get an older customer at my register. I ring up her groceries, tell her the total, and expect her to pay and go on her merry way right? If you guessed yes [buzzer sounds] you are wrong.

After I tell her the total she goes into rant mode like I'm supposed to listen to what she has to say. Screw that. But I listen anyway. She goes on about the tax it is only $.62 tax, but she says there isn't supposed to be tax on food she bought fruit and chicken and hot bar item.

Either way I have no control over prices whatsoever, nor final price, nor tax. She won't shut up about it, just keeps saying why am I being charged tax?

I call my manager over he says that we have no control over the tax and he leaves. This results in her making a snide comment about what he just said, and as a result, she decides to just leave her bagged groceries at my register and go to customer service to ask the tax on food question.

I suspended her order, another cashier took me off for lunch break and I went my merry way to the break room. While in the break room they called the upstairs manager to customer service. In my mind I'm thinking it's the lady with the tax question that he will encounter.

So what it all boils down to in retail hell land for any store grocery and/or otherwise has there ever been a customer that questioned why they were getting taxed for the items or groceries that they just bought? My opinion is there's a tax on everything; it's a way for the government to make money.

--Grocery Store Slave





Don't know the laws in your specific state, but most grocery store food isn't taxed; however, there is often tax on certain types of food like soda pop, or non-consumables like paper towels, or prepared meals. Most big grocery stores itemize the receipt and you can see which items were taxed. So why you'd yell at the cashier is a mystery, but anyone who wigs out over $0.62 is gonna be trouble, I'm guessing.

McHell Manager

In my state, premade food that is ready to eat (hotbar items, for example) is taxed. Food that you take home and cook up yourself isn't taxed.


In my state all purchases including food is taxed. In the state I went to College, food wasn't taxed. The oddest thing was that getting food to go wasn't taxed but ordering in was taxed. Even at fast food places. But anyone who freaks out about taxes needs to go back to elementary school. My biggest tax problem was a customer buying $200+ worth of items--all on clearance--who freaked when I charged her tax. Turns out she was tax exempted, but had thought I would read her mind. And didn't have the correct forms times. I was also the lead cashier when she came in the next day with the forms. Lucky me I got to help her again! At least we had competent managers who made a point to keep the customers from abusing us.

Mel the Library Slave

I think pretty much everything is taxed in my state (the Land of Lincoln and Governors That Go to Prison). Food definitely is, whether you buy it from the store or a restaurant.


This always confounds me, in the UK we have Value Added Tax (V.A.T.) that goes on certain items like luxury foods and goods (which for some reason includes female sanitary items (a rant for another occasion)) and it's added automatically to the price on the ticket. This is a flat rate and seems a lot more logical than adding taxes after you get to the checkout. There are some things you buy priced without V.A.T. on them that gets added at the end but that's usually because businesses want to know the difference so they can claim the tax back after.


This actually confused me. In Australia we have the Goods and services tax (GST) but that is included in the price of the item, not added at the end. So of course, when I fly over to America, I just get confused, because I didn't realise that tax is added at purchase.

But the GST thing covers everything here, not just food and produce, etc, so the exempt list for GST is long as it includes some medical, educational, food, etc.


Sales tax laws are determined regionally, so it depends on what state you live.
Where I live food is subject to sales tax.
I once had someone rant at me when I worked at The Baby Store because she was shocked that clothes were taxed. She was from New Hampshire, I think.


In my state, 'take it home and prepare it' food is not taxed, but 'eat it immediately' food is. The convenience store I worked in, you could buy a frozen burrito with food stamps as long as you didn't heat it up first. If you nuked it, I wasn't allowed to take food stamps for it. (I did anyway, if it didn't look like people were trying to scam the store. Or I'd tell them in the future, pay for it first, then nuke it so I didn't get in trouble.)

Sales tax is determined regionally, indeed; and there are several layers of it. There's state sales tax, then counties and cities both can add onto it for themselves.


And where I live we pay state, county, and city taxes on everything... and food gets charged a different tax rate than non-food. If you buy both types of items, you can see 6 different tax lines on one receipt!

And to our non-US friends who are confused- the above is why we add in the taxes after the fact. This makes it easier for big businesses which are cross-state to set corporate wide prices. This way they don't have to do the pesky addition in the home office for the taxes. And you can go to two different close stores and see that the shelf price is the same and know that the difference is because of city/county tax rates (which, yes, I can do with Walmart & Target easily as I live in city A, but if I walk 4 blocks I'm now in city B).


In my state, most foods are not taxed, but hot foods and junk food are. It gets really interesting when you try to define "junk" food. So the state tax booklet has 22 pages of food items, and whether or not they are taxed. Since one of the criteria that is looked at is whether or not the item contains flour, a Hershey bar is taxed, but a Kit-Kat bar is not. Try explaining THAT one to a crusty!

Even odder, in the state that I grew up in, food was taxed; but ice was not. The reason? Because people use ice to keep food fresh.

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