West Virginia says goodbye to food tax

PARKERSBURG – After years of decreases, West Virginia completely eradicated its food tax on Monday.

As of July 1, the 1 percent sales tax on edible items sold in the state was eliminated following decreases in that original 6 percent tax over several years. The road to the elimination of the tax began during the fourth special session of the West Virginia Legislature in 2005.

“It has taken the state six years to eliminate that tax,” said Jim Oppe, owner of Wood County Foodland stores. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that original 6 percent took a lot of money out of the pockets of the people.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin released a statement about the elimination of the tax that will allow people to not have to pay extra for something everyone must have to live.

“Families, individuals and seniors citizens will now go through the grocery store check-out line knowing they will not have the additional financial burden of a tax on one of life’s essentials, food,” Tomblin said. “Despite the financial constraints we face, I’m proud to say we are putting money back into West Virginians’ pockets.”

“The periodic reduction of the food tax began in 2005, putting hundreds of dollars back in the pockets of hardworking West Virginians over the years,” said Senate President Jeff Kessler.

Oppe said that while 1 percent sounds like a small amount, it adds up over time.

“These days an average family spends about $150 per week on groceries and the removal of the 1 percent food tax is $1.50 in savings each week,” he said. “That is an extra $78 per year that people have available to put into the economy through other things.”

With the elimination of the full 6 percent food tax, the annual savings on that $150 a week grocery bill is roughly $465, Oppe said.

“That is a nice savings,” he said.

The food tax was originally set at 6 percent in a time of financial difficulty for the state. During the past few years, as the state’s financial position has continued to improve, state legislators approved legislation to reduce the tax on an annual basis. This reduction led to the now elimination.

“Sound financial management has allowed us to achieve this accomplishment as we have carefully worked toward the elimination of this tax,” Tomblin said.

Although the tax means less money spent at the register, Oppe said he does not believe stores in Wood County and other communities that border Ohio, which does not have food sales tax, means more people will purchase groceries in the state.

“It’s really hard to tell if there is a difference in our customers after only one day and at the beginning of the month,” said an employee with Food 4 Less on Pike Street in Marietta where some residents of Williamstown and Boaz do grocery shopping. “Through the course of the month, we may notice that there are a few less people coming in, but I don’t think we will see that big of a difference.”

Oppe reminded shoppers that although the tax on food has been eliminated, the sales tax on non-edible items such as pop, toothpaste and soap remains.

“We have had a few folks who bought some non-edible items look closely at their receipts and we had to tell them that the tax on those items was not part of the food tax,” Oppe said.