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In Order to Avoid Sales Tax on Food in Wyoming It’s Best to Refuse Napkins, Resist the Urge to Heat Pastries

Today over the Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Blog, we get a little taste of how fun defining something like “food” can be. Now, if you’re like some people we know, there is lots of stuff at the grocery that definitely should not be consumed by human beings but in order to avoid raucous debate, it gets the food label. Wyoming is one of the 37 states that partially or wholly exempt groceries from sales tax but just because something is a grocery store, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be taxed. Sigh.

Under Wyoming’s new law, food is defined as “substances whether in liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated form that are sold for ingestion or chewing by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value.” This does not include booze, tobacco or “prepared foods.” And yes, exactly what items are included in “prepared foods” is where things get a little confusing.

What is a prepared food? Here’s how the new law defines it:

• Food sold in a heated state or heated by the seller; or

• Two or more food ingredients mixed or combined by the seller for sale as a single item; or

• Food sold with eating utensils provided by the seller including plates, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, cups, napkins, or straws. A container or package used to transport the food is not an eating utensil.

”Prepared food” does not include:

• Food that is only cut, repackaged, or pasteurized by the seller;

• Eggs, fish, meat, poultry, or foods containing raw animal foods and which are required or recommended to be cooked by the consumer to prevent food-borne illness;

• Food sold by a seller whose proper primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) classification is manufacturing in sector 311, except subsector 3118 dealing with bakeries; [Ed. note: This is my personal favorite]

• Food sold in an unheated state by weight or volume as a single item; or

• Bakery items including bread, rolls, buns, biscuits, bagels, croissants, pastries, donuts, danishes, cakes, tortes, pies, tarts, muffins, bars, cookies, tortillas, and other bakery goods unless the item is sold as prepared food.

This isn’t nearly as confusing at Washington state’s attempt to define candy (Kit-Kat doesn’t qualify) but it’s about as windy as…well, Wyoming.

Wyoming Redefines Food: Don’t Overprepare Your Danishes [Tax Foundation]