By Sam Dean, Bon Appétit
When you buy gazpacho in California, it comes tax-free. But hot tomato soup, at the same restaurant, that's maybe a little chilly? Totally taxed! Blueberries in Maine? Yup, taxed. Milky Ways in Iowa? No tax! But the dark chocolate Milky Way Midnight, right next to it at the candy stand? Yeah, that's taxed.
Food taxes are everywhere, and they are insane. Without even getting into the corn-syrupy morass of big agriculture taxes and subsidies, the taxes that we all pay on food in our day-to-day life are a patchwork of state laws that, more often than not, get businesses and taxpayers into some pretty absurd situations. Most problems arise from a basic conflict: everyone needs food, and most lawmakers agree that "essential" food should be tax-free. But wait, what's "essential"? And what even counts as "food"?!
It would take a team of tax lawyers to pick out all of the bizarre and byzantine food taxes in the country, but here are some of the best we've found: