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Tuesday, July 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Retailers: If tax removed from groceries, Idaho should use national streamlined definitions

Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, asks a question of Idaho Retailers Association President Pam Eaton during Tuesday's meeting of the Idaho Legislature's Tax Working Group (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, asks a question of Idaho Retailers Association President Pam Eaton during Tuesday's meeting of the Idaho Legislature's Tax Working Group (Betsy Z. Russell)

Pam Eaton, president and CEO of the Idaho Retailers Association, told lawmakers on the Tax Working Group that if Idaho were to take the sales tax off groceries, it wouldn’t be easy to use the SNAP or food-stamp definitions, because those currently include broad definitions and discretion for grocery stores within those definitions; lawmakers have discussed in past years using those definitions. Eaton said that means the state Tax Commission would have to write new, specific rules on which foods are taxable and which aren’t. But the Streamlined Sales Tax project, a multistate project aimed at streamlining tax definitions among states to ease collection of sales taxes on online purchases, already has created specific definitions. “It took over a decade to hammer out those definitions,” Eaton told lawmakers, and they “are widely accepted across the nation.”

“If you do take sales tax off of groceries, let’s just use the streamline definitions that are already out there,” Eaton said. “Our national retailers are used to ‘em, because they’re being used in other states.”

She also said if Idaho decided to take the sales tax off groceries, retailers would like 90 days notice after all rules that follow passage of legislation are finalized and in place. 




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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