New interest at Capitol in eliminating sales tax on food

Her comments helped redirect the discussion from restoring the full sales tax on food and providing a tax credit for low-income Utahns to looking at ways to remove it completely.

Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, asked staff to come back with a calculation showing how much the sales tax rate would have to be increased to collect the same amount of revenue if food purchases were made exempt.

While Quinn said he wasn't ready to advocate what he estimated would be about a quarter of a percent increase on other sales, such a shift might be "perhaps something that's amenable to everyone."

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said he planned to introduce legislation next session eliminating what he called "the most regressive tax humanly imaginable." The state, he said, "shouldn't be collecting this sales tax on food at all."

Utah reduced the state sales tax on food over two years in 2007 and 2008, dropping the rate to 1.75 percent from 4.7 percent. Up to an additional 1.25 percent can be charged by local governments on food purchases.

But there has been a push for years to restore the full rate on food by lawmakers concerned about the erosion of the state's sales tax base, which brings in just over a third of the nearly $10 billion in revenues collected annually...

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