Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why Is Split-Pea Soup Taxable and Gazpacho Isn't?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 8:11 AM

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION: JESSE LEFKOWITZ
  • Illustration: Jesse Lefkowitz

In this week's cover story, Joe Eskenazi tackles the crazy logic behind California's laws regulating whether foods are subject to sales tax or not. Most people know the basics: Foods sold for preparation at home are not taxed and foods eaten outside the home are taxed. But the practical implications of that statement are similar to those of the statement "Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell." The State Board of Equalization must engage in Talmudic feats of logic to determine which foods are taxable and which are not -- and even whether a substance counts as food:

A hot sandwich to go would be taxable, while a prepackaged, cold one would not -- but a cold sandwich becomes taxable if it has hot gravy poured onto it. Cold foods to go are generally not taxable -- but hot foods that have cooled are taxable (meaning a cold sandwich slathered in "hot" gravy that has cooled to room temperature is taxable). Cold, non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages to go aren't taxable. Hot beverages to go are, but coffee and tea are specifically exempted from taxation. Soup, however, is taxable. Hot soup that has cooled? Still taxable. But, the BOE specifically informs SF Weekly, cold soups such as gazpacho are exempt.

Worse yet, these tax laws, which are meant to benefit the poor, actually may penalize them. Eskenazi's proposed solution -- taxing all food and giving lower-income Californians a food-tax credit -- isn't just a pipe dream, either: It seems to work for Hawaii.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Jonathan Kauffman

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival
    Crowds gathered September 6-7 for the 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. Visitors enjoyed arts, crafts, cultural exhibits, food and a dog fashion show. Photographs by Dhoryan Rizo.
  • Felton: Touring the Redwoods
    Blue skies meet redwood canopies in the mountain town of Felton, located just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 9. Once a bustling logging community, the town is now a mix of mellow locals and serene wilderness. Visitors can enjoy the redwoods in nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and splash in swimming holes in the San Lorenzo River. For a bite to eat stop by Rocky’s Cafe for fruit-laden pancakes, barbeque at the Cowboy Bar & Grill and poolside burgers at the Trout Farm Inn. Other stops worth checking out include Roaring Camp Railroads, the Mount Hermon zip line tour, and the educational Bigfoot Discovery Museum. For beer or cocktails a log cabin bar has you covered.