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State Senator

Norm Needleman

Representing Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook

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Department of Revenue Services Changes Interpretation of ‘Grocery Tax’ After Pressure From Senate

Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) applauded an announcement made late last week by the Department of Revenue Services, stating the department was revising its initial interpretation of language included in the 2019-2020 biannual state budget. Recently referred to by members of the media as a “grocery tax,” the language in question intended to increase the 6.35 percent tax levied on prepared foods in restaurants and grocery stores to 7.35 percent. After the DRS broadened the scope of the language to include many items never intended to be taxed, the department made revisions in response to queries from government officials.

“This language in the state budget was never intended to create a ‘grocery tax,’ and as such, we told state leaders and the DRS to reassess it. Their interpretation couldn’t have been farther from what we envisioned,” said Sen. Needleman. “I am grateful for my colleagues joining me in asking for a change in policy, as the Governor’s administration rightly listened to us and reverted the ‘tax.’ Connecticut’s sales tax rarely involves groceries, and we intend to keep it that way. We do not tax groceries, unlike 14 other states, because we need to protect Connecticut families and keep money in their pockets.” Earlier this year, legislators worked to develop a slight increase in the “meals tax,” increasing the charge on prepared meals from 6.35 percent to 7.35 percent. This language was intended to only increase that charge on a meal or product sold at an eating establishment, caterer or grocery store. When reviewed by DRS, the language was misinterpreted due to the use of the word “grocery store” and applied to a wider group of food products than intended. According to a letter sent by DRS Commissioner Scott D. Jackson on September 19, the DRS misread the intent, as the General Assembly’s language and intent “did not expand the applicability of the tax.”

This is the second time this year Senator Needleman fought back against a proposed “grocery tax.” Late last year, the bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Competitiveness made a recommendation to the Governor’s office of taxing groceries 2 percent. This is a proposal that Senator Needleman does not support.

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