Kansans will soon be paying a lower sales tax rate at the grocery store after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly signed a tax cut into law that was approved by state lawmakers. The measure cuts the 6.5% state sales tax on groceries to 4% on Jan. 1, 2023. After that, scheduled reductions would take it to 2% in 2024 and zero by Jan. 1, 2025.
The proposal does not affect local sales taxes on groceries. Those are in addition to the state’s 6.5% tax. It is one of only seven states in the nation that fully taxes groceries, and at 6.5 percent, it’s the second-highest rate in the country.
KC Healthy Kids has been sounding the alarm about this harmful tax since 2014, when we rallied our partners and began working with the Kansas Legislature on both sides of the aisle to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries.
“Over the last seven years, we’ve worked with grocers, economists, hunger relief agencies, and consumers to educate Kansas decision makers about all the ways the grocery tax hurts Kansans,” Beth Low-Smith, vice president for policy at KC Healthy Kids said.
As a result of this work, in October 2014, two members of the Kansas Senate — a Republican and a Democrat — announced they would pursue legislation to eliminate the sales tax on food. Republican Michael O’Donnell and Democrat Oletha Faust-Goudeau, both from Wichita, said their proposal would likely phase out the tax over several years.
“As bipartisan support for eliminating the grocery tax has grown, so has the urgency of this issue. It’s time for decision makers in Topeka to do what’s right for the physical and economic health of Kansas and do away with this outdated and harmful tax on groceries,” Beth says.
In 2015, KC Healthy Kids’ food policy staff partnered with Wichita State to publish a series of white papers showing the damaging effects of the sales tax: it drives shoppers across state lines, hurts lower-income families more, and hurts rural grocery stores.
The elimination of the state food sales tax applies to food purchased at grocery stores, farmers markets and anywhere grocery food items are sold.
According to Governor Kelly’s office, a Kansas family of 4 would save an average of $500 dollars on their grocery bill every year. That’s extra money that could go to school supplies, gas, or bills, instead. The plan would not divert resources from other state services or agencies.