Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Candy is dandy. But what if it isn’t really candy as defined by the state Department of Revenue?

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on May 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
May 11, 2010 9:18 am
CANDY OR FOOD?

What would Sammy Davis, Jr. think?

OK, he’s dead. But if he were alive, would the Candy Man agree that a Twix Bar is NOT candy? What if what the Candy Man made was licorice and was determined by the bureaucrats at the state Department of Revenue to not be candy either? What if malted milk balls were free of taxation in the state of Washington?

FOOD OR CANDY?

Talk about your childhood wishes!

The list of what is candy and what isn’t has been released (and a big box of Big Hunks to Jason Mercier for finding it). We’ve created a searchable database on which you can look up your favorite candy – or foodstuff. The list has provoked a bit of discussion in the newsroom. For instance, why is a Reese’s with peanuts taxable but Reese’s Sticks exempt? And why is the Big Hunk taxable and the Look bar not. And why is a Snickers bar taxable but a Snickers Cruncher exempt? What, exactly IS a Snickers Cruncher?

The answer appears to be flour. In the law passed by the Legislature, the definition for candy comes from the national streamlined sales tax group:

“‘Candy’ means a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. ‘Candy’ does not include any preparation containing flour and does not require refrigeration.”

As Mercier says: “There you have it. Clear as fudge.”

Wait, is fudge taxable?

Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the department, said staff used online research to build this list and said it will be expanded based on feedback from wholesalers and retailers.

“One thing they would like us to do is tie the list to UPC codes to
facilitate their programming, and we are working on tha,” Gowrylow said.

“Illinois used this definition when it began taxing candy last year and
got quite a bit of ribbing from the media but retailers ended up being
able to implement the tax based on this definition, I’m told,” he said.

The flour exemption was to distinguish candy from cookies. Cookies are a baked good and remain exempt from taxation. So the flour exemption saves the Twix lovers from paying more. And apparently that’s why the Reese’s Sticks is exemption but the peanut butter cup is taxable.

Who knew licorice has flour in it? Even in a Jelly Belly because nearly all of the candy beans are taxable except the licorice flavor.

But not all licorice candy is exempt.

“Licorice in most cases has flour in it, but it has to be a grain-based
flour, not peanut-based, so some forms of licorice are taxable,” Gowrylow said.

And I guess malt is a type of flour because malted milk balls are exempt. So are items like chocolate-covered pretzels.

Still, it all leads to some delicious ironies (God, this is fun). A 100 Grand bar is exempt from taxation but a Payday bar is taxed.

DOR is not claiming it has all knowledge when it comes to candy (though it appears somebody down there likes licorice). So it has invited appeals…

“If a product that appears to be candy is not on the list, you can request a binding ruling from the Department,” it announced. Send your request and a copy of the product wrapper to:
Taxpayer Information and Education
PO Box 47478
Olympia WA 98504-7478
Or email to rulings@dor.wa.gov

*
The News Tribune now uses Facebook commenting on selected blogs. See editor's column for more details. Commenters are expected to abide by terms of service for Facebook as well as commenting rules for thenewstribune.com. Report violators to webmaster@thenewstribune.com.