Our View

State sales tax on groceries has disappeared from most states in the U.S. — but not in the Four-State Area.

Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas are among just 13 states that still tax grocery purchases, according to an April 2020 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Missouri and Arkansas tax groceries at lower rates than other goods, and Kansas and Oklahoma tax groceries at the regular state sales tax rate but offer some form of credit or rebate in certain situations.

The center, a nonpartisan think tank, argues that grocery sales taxes exacerbate existing inequities because low-income families generally will spend a larger share of their income on groceries.

“The lowest-income fifth of families spends almost twice the share of their annual income on food at home than the highest-income fifth does: 10.3% versus 5.7%,” center staff say.

State governments are starting to take note, and repealing the state sales tax on groceries has in recent years become a bipartisan issue.

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, during his State of the State address this week, offered his support of eliminating the tax, which amounts to 4.5% in Oklahoma. Legislation to do just that has been introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, a Republican from Oklahoma City.

“Many Oklahomans are already struggling under the weight of record inflation,” Stitt told lawmakers. “Let’s give them more help this year. Because, after all, we need more taxpayers, not more taxes.”

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and a coalition of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting “Axe the Food Tax,” an initiative that would eliminate the state sales tax on food in Kansas.

The food sales tax rate is 6.5%, the second-highest rate in the country; dropping that tax could save the average family at least $500 per year on groceries, according to Kelly’s office.

“This tax cut will put money back in Kansans’ pockets and create real savings for those who need it most,” Kelly said.

We support these efforts and urge the quick passage of legislation in our Four-State Area to eliminate state sales taxes on groceries. These taxes disproportionately harm those who are already struggling, and states have a plethora of other taxes and programs at their disposal to raise needed revenue.

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