Food or Candy: are you smarter than a legislator?


If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…

We manage to breeze through Halloween. Any 5-year old can set you straight. So why are state legislatures struggling with the definition of candy?

Retail food sales have traditionally been exempt from sales tax, which were deemed cruel and regressive. In recent years, as cash-strapped states look to plug up budget deficits, candy taxes have become the go-to revenue source. Already this year candy or soda taxes have been proposed or passed in more than a dozen states.

Food or Candy: how well do you know your sweet treats? (answers appear below)*

  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
  2. Twizzlers Red Licorice
  3. Gummi Bears
  4. Jordan Almonds
  5. Snicker’s Bar
  6. Kit Kat
  7. M&M’s Peanut
  8. Milky Way
  9. Three Musketeers
  10. Nestle’s Crunch

On June 1, when the candy tax goes into effect in Washington, state residents will be paying a little more for Good and Plenty and licorice whips, but not licorice buttons or drops. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar– taxable; Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme– tax exempt. Reese’s pieces and Butterfinger bars are taxed but the stick versions aren’t.

Food or Candy? Walking the thin, sweet line is an audit manager in the Washington State Department of Revenue who has been charged with the all-important determinations. Each flavor of jelly bean must be individually parsed. Decisions must be made about bulk buying and boxed assortments. This is one state auditor whose job is safe for a very long time.

Absurd, arcane, and just utter nonsense, hair-splitting categorizations have been assigned to 3,600 items, although word is that one candy distributor just dropped a list of 11,000 Japanese imports on his desk. Whether you’re  a fan of Mr. Goodbar or Sour Patch Kids, you can check the status of your favorite sweets with the Washington State Taxable Treats Database.

*answers: odd numbers are candy; even numbers are food, except for 4.Jordan Almonds and 8.Milky Way: Jordan Almonds are candy except for the white ones, which are food; Milky Way bars are food except for the dark chocolate version, which is candy.



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One Response to Food or Candy: are you smarter than a legislator?

  1. Sam says:

    two words: gummy hamburgers

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