Data Dive: Which states tax groceries?

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Data Dive: Which states tax groceries?

Mississippi is one of only 13 states that tax groceries, and at 7%, the state’s tax is the highest in the nation.

View the data on the states that tax their groceries, including standard sales tax rates:

Grocery taxes only continue to burden low-income people, which compounds another problem of food insecurity: Mississippi has the highest food insecurity rate in the country, according to 2020 data provided by Feeding America.

Mississippi, the poorest state, also has one of the highest sales tax rates across the board, matching Indiana, Rhode Island and Tennessee. California has the highest sales tax of 7.25%.

The debate on whether or not to cut Mississippi's grocery tax has persisted for years, with late politician Alan Nunnelee calling the 7% tax "the most cruel tax any government can impose" as far back as 2007.

READ MORE: Some see grocery tax as ‘cruel.’ Others, including top state leaders, believe it is fair.

As Bobby Harrison reported in a 2020 analysis, Vice President for State Fiscal Policy Michael Leachman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued that Mississippi — the first state to impose a modern-day sales tax — did so because of race, at least partially.

To quote Harrison, "Even if Mississippi politicians are given a huge benefit of the doubt on the issue of race that history tells us they might not deserve, it is fair to assume that a high percentage of people whom [former Gov. Mike] Connor was referencing as paying no taxes were African American. After all, because of the higher levels of poverty among Black residents, they had then and have now less property and income to tax.

Many of the states where the higher sales taxes can be found are in the South. And only three states levy as much sales tax on food as they do on other retail items. Two of those also are Southern states — Mississippi and Alabama — with the other being South Dakota."

As of 2022, the number of states that levy their full sales tax on food is now seven: Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Elected officials, though they discuss the possibility of cutting the grocery tax, have consistently stated that income tax is their priority.

READ MORE:

Tennessee exempted taxes on food. Mississippi exempted taxes on guns.
Grocery tax cut considered, but never acted upon by state’s political leadership
Key House leader says Mississippi should cut highest-in-nation grocery tax

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.