Local taxation on candy, soft drinks improbable


What gets taxed

The definitions of candy and soft drinks in Colorado House Bill 1191 are as follows:

Candy — “a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruit, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces.”

Does not include items that need refrigeration or contain flour.

Soft drinks — “nonalcoholic beverages that contain natural or artificial sweeteners.”

Does not include beverages containing milk or milk products, soy, rice, or similar milk substitutes or any drink that’s more than half vegetable or fruit juice.

A bill on Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk would levy a state sales tax on candy and soft drinks, but local governments don’t appear likely to follow suit in Grand Junction.

Every $10 package of sugary drinks or package of sweets purchased in Colorado will come with a 29 cent state sales tax charge. But because the bill only addresses state sales tax, the city of Grand Junction will have to ask for Department of Revenue approval to add 27.5 cents to that tally, and Mesa County would have to do the same to add 20 cents to the total.

If the bill is enacted, county administration could ask the county’s three commissioners to vote whether to impose a county sales tax on candy and soft drinks, according to county spokeswoman Jessica Peterson. The proposal wouldn’t get far, though.

“My answer is no. In fact, it’s more like hell no,” Commissioner Craig Meis said.

Meis said he’s not a fan of the bill or others that may affect sales tax, and he’s not eager to follow the state’s lead. Neither is Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who said he’d vote no on a proposal to put a county tax on candy and soft drinks.

“I don’t know why the county would want to impose a tax just because the state is,” he said.

City Manager Laurie Kadrich mentioned the bill Monday during a Grand Junction City Council workshop, but she did not indicate whether the city would consider having its own sales tax on candy and soft drinks. City spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said Friday that city officials and City Council members have had no further discussion about the bill, but Rainguet said the topic likely will come up in discussion at City Hall after the bill is signed, if it is signed.

Local governments would have to begin taxing soft drinks and candy either on Jan. 1 or July 1 of the year they decided to make the change. They’d have to notify the state Department of Revenue of their wish to collect the tax at least 45 days before the tax went into effect.

House Bill 1191 would eliminate a sales tax exemption on candy and soft drinks beginning May 1.

The bill is expected to raise $18 million a year for the state, according to the bill’s fiscal note.


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