Hospitality tax penalizes fresh food purchases

info@islandpacket.comNovember 7, 2012 

I was surprised when purchasing bread at a local grocery store to find that I was charged a 2 percent sales tax on it.

Digging further, I found that the tax is the Bluffton hospitality tax. You might think that the hospitality tax was intended to be collected on restaurant food and drink, but according to the town Finance Department, this is not the case.

While our state excludes sales tax on any item that can be purchased with food stamps, Bluffton charges this tax on grocery store items from:

  • The in-store bakery, including breads, hot dog and hamburger buns, cakes, pies and even refrigerated pizza dough.

  • The deli, even when sold by weight or volume.

  • The produce department for produce that has been cut and packaged in the store.

  • The tax is not collected on the same items in the baked goods aisle or on deli items that are sliced and packaged in a factory somewhere else. In effect, customers are being charged for selecting the fresher items with fewer preservatives and a shorter shelf life. That's a tax on healthier eating.

    This is outrageous. While it is reasonable that a deli prepared sandwich or fried chicken meal be taxed (similar to restaurant purchases), bread, hot dog buns or pizza dough still require further preparation at home to be consumed.

    I urge you to call your Bluffton representatives and raise awareness of this issue.

    Gary Schultz


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