Central Coast

Dear Jon: Sales tax and food, can it be any more confusing?

Sales tax charged on food sales is like a minefield. When do I pay a sales tax and when shouldn't I be charged? What if the establishment gets it wrong? It's no surprise that establishments have a problem getting it right when you read the section code. Let's put things in focus.

Gizmo emailed me and asked, "Dear Jon, what's up with food and sales tax? I was charged sales tax for a Subway Sandwich, is that right?"

That depends on some factors of the sale.

Charging sales tax for food in California has so many variables, so let me start with the California Board of Equalization's section 6359. This is the sales tax code for food purchased for human consumption.

It says, "...sales are generally exempt from tax... unless sold in a heated condition... except hot bakery items or hot beverages, served as meals, consumed at the sellers facility, sold at or near the sellers parking facility and it's sold where there is an admission charge like a movie theater."

Did you get that? It's confusing to say the least.

Back to the original question; did you eat a cold Subway sandwich at the store? Sales tax can be charged. Did you take the cold sandwich to go? No sales tax charged. Did Subway heat the sandwich to go? Sales tax should be charged.

 I could go on with so many other scenarios where sales tax would be charged or not charged on food for consumption. It's nuts!

If you find that you've been charged sales tax incorrectly for food, you can report this directly to the Board of Equalization on their website or at a field office in Salinas at 831-443-3003 or Ventura at 805-677-2700. They should follow up on this. It's your best option if you don't want to deal with the issue with store management right then and there.

If you have a question for me, just click the email link above. You can also message me on Facebook at "JonKBrent KIONKCOY" or Twitter at "DearJonKBrent."

comments powered by Disqus