Kansas food sales tax is 2nd highest in U.S., governor, potential opponent support exemption

Compared to most states, Kansas has a higher sales tax, including on food.
State sales tax for states in central U.S.(KWCH)
Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:12 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - At 6.5 percent, Kansas has the second highest sales tax on food in the nation. That doesn’t include what counties or cities may add on to that. Both Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, her potential Republican opponent in next year’s gubernatorial race, say they support an exemption for food.

In Sedgwick County, the sales tax is higher than the state tax by one percent. If the governor’s proposal to eliminate the state sales tax on food passes next year, that one percent county tax would remain with the state’s 6.5 percent being dropped.

“Cutting sales tax on food, I think is a great step in the right direction,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said. “It’s never been more expensive to be a Kansan. No one deserves a sales tax cut more than the everyday Kansan and their family.”

The sales tax in the central region is between 2.9 percent in Colorado to 6.5 percent in Kansas. When it comes to food, Colorado and Nebraska have an exemption for groceries and Missouri lowers its taxes for food. Kansas and Oklahoma charge the full sales tax on groceries, but in Oklahoma, that tax is two percent lower than Kansas.

Dave Trabert with the nonprofit free-market think tank, the Kansas Policy Institute, is in agreement with Kansas’ Democratic governor on axing the food tax.

“We do need to eliminate or drastically reduce the sales tax on food, just like we need to address all the other high taxes Kansas has,” Trabert said. “But the only way you get there is by spending less to provide the same or better quality of service.”

When it comes to actual passage of the bill to eliminate Kansas’ sales tax on food, the situation can become more complicated with next year being an election year, including the Kansas governor’s race.

“In campaign season, everyone says that they’re against taxation on food. I get that. However, in my experience in the legislature, that hasn’t been bipartisan,” said Whipple, a former state representative.

Trabert indicated the key to reaching an agreement on a bill to eliminate the sales tax would be to make sure the burden is dropped, not shifted.

“You have to talk about how you are going to reduce spending in order to really pay for this,” he said. “Otherwise, all you’re doing is setting Kansans up for a shift in the tax burden.”

The sales tax on food in Mississippi is the highest in the U.S. at 7 percent, followed by Kansas at 6.5 percent, but five out of the eight states with the highest food sales tax rates offer a rebate or credit to compensate poor households. With Kelly’s plan for Kansas, the state would lose about $450 million in revenue.

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