Sales Tax Rules And Prepared Foods

Sales taxes are a fact of American life, and they are really noticeable in the area of fast food.

For instance, when a hungry consumer drives through his favorite drive-thru, he should expect to pay the price of his burger plus additional coinage to cover sales tax. Most states, counties and municipalities feed their coffers by charging a local sales tax on most every kind of purchase imaginable. Local law regulates what purchases are taxable and at what rate.

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pi...

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita taken by Valerio Capello on September 6th 2005 in a pizzeria (“I Decumani”) located on the Via dei Tribunali in Naples. Italiano: Fotografia di un’autentica pizza Margherita napoletana scattata da Valerio Capello il 6 settembre 2005 nella pizzeria “I Decumani” situata in Via dei Tribunali a Napoli. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Application of sales tax regulations is not always straightforward, though. “Prepared food” sales tax rules are different from sales tax rules on single items such as milk or bread. For example, a take and bake pizza at your local eatery incurs sales tax, but some people, and states, are confused and upset about that. Is a cold pizza that the customer has to take home and bake actually prepared food?

Amazingly, the states of South Dakota and Arkansas wrote and published rules which say that pizza which is put together in a store and the baked at home is actually a prepared, and taxable, food because the restaurant had to assemble two or more ingredients to put the product together.

The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Governing Board says a take and bake pizza is prepared food and therefore, taxable. The state of Wisconsin has a flow chart that its Department of Revenue employs to apply sales tax regulations to pizza and everything else.

Recently, an amendment to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement says all states can make their own decisions on which pizzas are subject to sales tax. Yes, even pizza can get complicated when it comes to the tax man.

H&R Block specializes in navigating the muddiest of tax waters for the American taxpayer.


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