Utah lawmakers consider eliminating food sales tax

Some Utah lawmakers on the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee considered eliminating a sales tax on food, which came after the previous legislative session pushed for the opposite.

In the hours of discussion on the food tax during the last Wednesday meeting, Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson helped shift the conversation from restoring the tax to a previous rate to eliminating it altogether.


"People have to eat. So I have a real concern about being cavalier about this," Henderson said. "I think we need to really, in this instance especially, understand the human cost, particularly to our families."

Other lawmakers expressed interest with the idea.

While Republican Rep. Tim Quinn said he was not yet ready to advocate such a move, he said that it could be "something that is amenable to all of us." If the state raised sales tax on other items from 4.7 percent to 4.95 percent, the sales tax on food could be dropped to zero, he said.

From 2007 to 2008, the state lowered the sales tax on food from 4.7 percent to 1.75 percent. Local governments can add up to 1.25 percent on food purchases on top of the state rate.

In a deal that fell apart last session, senate leaders pushed to restore the tax back to the previous rate while providing a tax credit for low-income households. The lawmakers cited that the change would reduce volatility in sales tax revenues because food sales tend to stay constant.

Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis said he plans to introduce a bill next session to eliminate the sales tax on food.