Haskell opposes interpretation of new food tax

A new food tax that is to go into effect on Oct. 1 has raised questions among state Senate Democrats, including Wilton’s state Sen. Will Haskell (D-26).

On Monday, Sept. 16, he called for the Department of Revenue Services to reassess its interpretation of a policy statement issued earlier this month. Haskell joined the state Senate Democratic Caucus in signing a letter to DRS Commissioner Scott D. Jackson requesting the DRS revise its interpretation.

Haskell said the caucus was “shocked” to see how DRS interpreted the language in the budget (PA 19-117).

The tax on prepared meals was originally presented as a 1-percent jump on items already taxed at 6.35 percent.

But consumers will now be taxed at the new rate for foods like donuts, pizza slices, hot dogs, smoothies and power bars according to guidelines DRS prepared for grocery stores and other retailers.

The 7.35-percent sales tax also applies to beer, fruit juices, milkshakes, hot chocolate, wine, and distilled alcohol like brandy or rum, as well as coffee and tea if purchased prepared to drink, rather than as coffee grounds or in tea bags.

“This far-reaching reading of the budget, which expands the base of the sales taxes to many meals and beverages, is not in keeping with the letter or spirit of the budget we passed,” Haskell said. “I am worried about how these new taxes will impact my constituents, and I don’t think the state should be in the business of sneaking in new taxes outside of the normal legislative process. I join my colleagues in calling for revisions to the DRS’s guidance that reflect our intention in the budget.”

A statement from Haskell’s office said the department’s interpretation of the meals and beverages covered by the sales tax is not the legislative intent of the budget and goes against the interpretation of all three nonpartisan offices.

This interpretation would lead to a different fiscal note from the Office of Fiscal Analysis. DRS did not provide any feedback when the budget was heard in committee, nor did it when the language was included in the tax package that was voted out of the Finance Committee, Haskell’s office said.