What Foods Are Taxed


Groceries vs. Restaurant Meals: A Guide to Food Tax

Food taxation varies widely by jurisdiction. Understanding the different tax rates and exemptions can help you plan your grocery shopping and dining out budget.


  • Typically exempt from sales tax in most states
  • Some states may have limited exemptions for certain types of food, such as prepared meals or snacks

Restaurant Meals

  • Typically subject to sales tax in most states
  • Tax rates vary depending on the jurisdiction
  • May include additional taxes, such as local sales tax or special meals taxes
StateGrocery Sales TaxRestaurant Meals Tax
New York4%8.875%

Note: These rates are examples and may not represent current tax rates. It’s recommended to consult your local tax authority for the most up-to-date information.

Taxability of Food in the United States

In the United States, most food items are not subject to sales tax. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Generally, food that is prepared or sold for immediate consumption is taxable. This includes food sold at restaurants, cafeterias, and vending machines.

In addition, some states also tax certain types of food that are not prepared or sold for immediate consumption. For example, some states tax candy, soda, and other snacks. Other states tax food that is purchased with food stamps.

Taxability of Health Foods

The taxability of health foods varies from state to state. In general, health foods are not taxed if they are sold in their natural state. However, some states do tax health foods that are processed or packaged.

  • Foods that are not taxed:
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Lean meats
    • Low-fat dairy products
  • Foods that may be taxed:
    • Processed foods
    • Packaged foods
    • Foods that are high in sugar or fat
Taxability of Health Foods by State
StateTaxability of Health Foods
AlabamaHealth foods are not taxed if they are sold in their natural state.
AlaskaHealth foods are not taxed.
ArizonaHealth foods are taxed if they are processed or packaged.
ArkansasHealth foods are not taxed.
CaliforniaHealth foods are taxed if they are sold in a prepared or packaged form.


Beverages are a common target of food taxes. This is because they are often seen as unhealthy and a contributor to obesity. Sugary drinks, in particular, have been linked to a number of health problems, including tooth decay, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Sports drinks
  • Energy drinks

Snack Foods

Snack foods are another common target of food taxes. These foods are often high in calories, fat, and sugar, and they can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
FoodTax Rate
Sports drinks1.5%
Energy drinks2%

State and Local Food Tax Variations: How Taxes on Groceries Differ Across the US

Grocery taxes, imposed on food and beverage purchases, vary significantly from state to state and even from city to city. These variations can have a substantial impact on the cost of living for families across the country.

In general, most states impose a sales tax on food purchases. However, some states, such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, do not have a sales tax, and thus do not tax groceries.

For states that do impose a sales tax on food, the rate can vary from 2% to 10%. Some states, such as California and New York, have a tiered system where the sales tax rate on food is lower than the general sales tax rate.

In addition to state sales taxes, some local governments also impose additional taxes on food. These local taxes can vary from city to city and can add several percentage points to the total tax burden on groceries.

The following table provides a summary of state and local food tax rates in major cities across the United States:

CityState Sales Tax RateLocal Sales Tax RateTotal Sales Tax Rate on Food
New York, NY4%4.5%8.5%
Los Angeles, CA7.25%1%8.25%
Chicago, IL6.25%1.25%7.5%
Houston, TX6.25%0%6.25%
Philadelphia, PA6%2%8%

As shown in the table, the total sales tax rate on food can vary significantly from city to city. In New York City, for example, the total sales tax rate on food is 8.5%, while in Houston, Texas, the total sales tax rate on food is 6.25%.

These variations in food taxes can have a significant impact on the cost of living for families. For example, a family that spends $500 per month on groceries will pay $42.50 in sales tax in New York City, but only $31.25 in sales tax in Houston.

It is important for consumers to be aware of the food tax rates in their local area. By understanding the tax laws, consumers can make informed decisions about where to shop for groceries and how to budget their money.

Thanks for taking the time to explore the ins and outs of food taxation. As you navigate your next grocery run, remember that the taxman can sometimes make healthy choices a bit more expensive. But don’t get discouraged! Understanding these complexities can help you make informed decisions about what to put on your plate. Stay tuned for future articles as we delve into more fascinating food-related topics. In the meantime, keep your Fork and Wallet happy by choosing wisely and remember, every bite counts!