Bill adds sales tax on candy and soda purchases in Massachusetts

Sugary drinks are one of the largest sources of added sugar in American diets

BOSTON (WWLP) — You could soon have to pay the state sales tax when you purchase a candy bar or bottle of soda if lawmakers pass a proposal to take these sugary items off the tax exempt list.

Under current law, you don’t pay sales tax on “food products,” including fruits and vegetables, milk, and even candy and soda. But you may soon have to pay the 6.25 percent tax on the sweet stuff if lawmakers pass a proposal under consideration by the state’s revenue committee.

“And that’s really questionable, especially when we deal with high rates of diabetes, high rates of obesity,” said State Rep. Aaron Vega, (D) Holyoke. “We see a lot of schools banning these products from their cafeterias and from their vending machines.”

The bill would remove several sugary items from the sales tax exempt list, including candy, soda and fruit drinks that contain less than 70 percent natural fruit juice. Sugary drinks are one of the largest sources of added sugar in American diets — sugar that is known to contribute to health problems, like obesity, diabetes, and dental cavities.

But some lawmakers are concerned the proposal could hurt small businesses and they’re reluctant to raise taxes on residents.

“People want to go on vacations; a lot of times they have barbecues with sodas, with candy,” said State Rep. John Velis, (D) Westfield. “It’s just not good financial practices. That is why Massachusetts has that reputation of ‘tax-achusetts.’ We need to kill those bills.”

The bill is currently under review by the state’s Revenue Committee, but will likely need more support to make it to the House for a vote.

Lawmakers are also considering a proposal to place an excise tax on sugary beverages, including soft drinks and sodas.