groceries at checkout

Kansas grocery shoppers stock up across state lines



You have to be creative when you live on a fixed income.

And Larry Adams is when it comes to buying milk, eggs and bread in Kansas, a state with 6.5 percent sales tax on groceries. If you combine that 6.5 percent with Phillips County sales tax and the local tax rate for his town of Phillipsburg, that means a combined 9 percent in sales tax.

That is a lot of tax on a necessity like food.

Adams livesin in Phillipsburg, Kansas near the Nebraska border. Whenever he or his wife see the doctor in Kearney, McCook or Grand Island, Neb., they stock up. Depending on the town, it’s a 200-300 mile round trip.

“My wife and I are relying on our meager social security checks for survival,” he says. “If we shop at home, we must pay tax on all of our food.”

That can mean pulling out $2 to pay for a 98-cent purchase. Yes, they will re-ceive change in the transaction but the digging deeper to buy food is a hardship that Adams sees daily.

So when the Adams go to Nebraska for medical treatment they make it a point to stop at the bigger stores there.

“We do a lot of our grocery shopping in Walmart, in Kearney or McCook because of the lack of tax on groceries,” Adams says. “When we are there we do the rest of our shopping – the toilet paper, the clothing, the pharmacy and will easily drop several hundred dollars on other taxable items that go to the state of Nebraska.”

He says it is not unusual to drop $300 or $400 in one trip.

“Our main reasons to shop there are the better prices and no sales tax on food,” he says. “We do buy some food in Hays and some locally, in Phillipsburg or Lo-gan, but our large orders are in Nebraska.

Adams and his wife moved to Kansas in 2001 from California, which does not have the food tax.

“This was a shock to us to have to pay sales tax on our groceries,” he says.

Going to another state to save money means less revenue coming into Kansas to support Kansas businesses and residents.

“Our high sales tax on food means it makes financial sense of many Kansans to crossing state borders to buy groceries,” says Ashley Jones-Wisner, State Policy Director for KC Healthy Kids. “Lowering the sales tax on food would help ensure Kansas dollars will stay in our state.”

By Traci Angel

What Does Your Legislator Think?

KC Healthy Kids surveyed every candidate running for the 165 seats in the Kansas Legislature to find out what they think about the Kansas grocery tax and other healthy eating and active living policy issues.  See Their Responses (11×17 PDF)


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