The Senate has voted unanimously, 35-0, in favor of HB 489, legislation to remove a little-known sales and use tax from the free sips of wine given away at wine tastings, or other free beverages like apple cider samples given out at farmers' markets. Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, spoke in favor of the bill, which was brought forth by Idaho wineries after the state Tax Commission contacted several last August and told them to go through their records going back three years and fork over the tax on the freebies. Subsequently, wineries and the Tax Commission agreed that the current law is unworkable.
Hill said he wished the bill went even further. He noted that the bill only addresses free samples of beverages, not food - so if a business gave out free hot dogs and soda, it'd still have to pay sales taxes on the hot dog giveaway. “This is not the best law,” Hill said. “I think we need to make it more fair when we look at food and beverages which are given away for the purpose of enticing people to buy those things, which then we're going to be able to collect sales tax on.” Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, the bill's Senate sponsor, told Hill in his closing debate, “I think you'll see the hot dog bill coming forward next year.” HB 489 now goes to the governor's desk.