What’s candy?

Kit Kat - is it a cookie or a candy bar?

Kit Kat - is it a cookie or a candy bar?

This year the Legislature extended the sales tax to candy. Earlier this week the Dept. of Revenue released a list of products that will be taxed. The list also identifies similar items that don’t fall under the definition of “candy” so that retailers can easily re-program their cash registers.

Of course, this provided lots of fodder for the media to have some fun, and they didn’t pass up the opportunity. 🙂

Seattle Times: Will your favorite candy be taxed? Not if it contains flour

Seattle PI: Candy tax takes effect June 1 in Washington

Chicago Tribune: Candy or food? Confusion grows as new tax looms

I don’t usually quote the Chicago Tribune, but when I look up up the media hits on Bing theirs popped up along with ours. You’ll see that the articles are practically identical because they have the same issue we do. There is a national definition of “candy” that most states use. It makes life easier for businesses if everyone uses the same definition.

The problem is defining what’s a cookie and what’s a candy bar. If you start with a Hershey bar and an oatmeal raisin cookie the definition is clear. Now add chocolate chips to the cookie. Is it still a cookie, or is it candy? How about covering it in chocolate? (Now we’re talking about a Kit-Kat bar…)

There needs to be a definition, and every possible definition will have people arguing about it. The definition we settled on uses the presence of flour to determine the difference. This definition has the value of having been agreed to by at least 23 other states.

My personal vision of Hell is to have to argue endlessly about the definition of candy and cookies with tax lawyers.

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.