Bill allowing localities to reduce or repeal sales tax on groceries stalls

Legislation that would allow local governments to reduce or eliminate their local sales tax on food apparently has stalled in a House committee.

House County and Municipal Government Committee Chairman Reed Ingram, R-Matthews, encouraged the sponsor, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, to resubmit HB42 as a local constitutional amendment, which would have to be advertised prior to introduction in the Legislature.

The Tuscaloosa City Council voted April 9 to raise its local sales tax by 1% once an offsetting tax reduction is made elsewhere. The council’s first choice for an offset is England’s legislation to allow cities to lower sales tax on groceries. Should the state not allow Tuscaloosa to waive its sales tax on food, the council said it would drop all or part of its garbage fees.

England’s legislation isn’t the only bill that would alter the sales tax on groceries.

The House Ways & Means Education Committee has yet to consider:

  • HB470 by Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, which would phase out the 4% state sales and use taxes on food by reducing the state tax by one percentage point each year starting Sept. 1, 2019. Food would be fully exempt from Alabama sales and use taxes by Sept. 1, 2023.
  • HB322 by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, which would completely drop the state’s four percent sales tax from groceries beginning Sept. 1, 2019. Local sales tax would continue to be applied to food, under Hall’s bill, which has 25 co-sponsors.

All three bills use the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) definition of food, a provision the Alabama Retail Association emphasizes as being important to retailers.

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