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VERIFY: Yes, Sales Taxes Are Different For Different Foods

You ask; we VERIFY. A North Carolina business cannot charge a higher sales tax on groceries, as it does on sodas.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When you get your receipt at the grocery store, you probably check over the items to make sure you weren't overcharged or didn't double scan something on the self check-out.

But, how often do you look at the sales taxes? This VERIFY might spur you to do so.


Good Morning Show viewer Roy e-mailed, asking, "I have a question for you. My wife was working at a convenience store, and they wanted her to charge anything that is supposed to be under grocery...to charge it under soda, to get the extra sales tax. My question is -- is this legal? Thanks."

When VERIFY's Meghann Mollerus responded to Roy's inquiry asking the name of the store, so she could see what kind of items were being charged as soda items, he did not respond. So, she dug into the details about sales taxes on grocery versus soda items.



Robinson said if the store viewer Roy mentioned is unjustly charging extra sales tax to put money in their pockets and falsify the form E-500, that is illegal. However, it is possible the items sold at the convenience store do not count as groceries, and that makes a difference.

North Carolina reduces the sales tax rate to just 2% for qualifying grocery items, like fruits, vegetables, meats and snacks. These items exclude unhealthy foods, like sodas and candy. Those are taxed with the 4.75% state sales tax in addition to the local sales tax (of $2 to $2.25, as of April 2019), so the rate can be as high as 7%. 

Prepared foods, like restaurant meals, hot takeout meals from the deli or even hot snacks at a gas station are subject to an 8.5% sales tax (though the majority of Triad-area counties do not charge the increase).

For example, on a $100 bag of healthy groceries, a consumer would pay $2 in sales tax for a total of $102. On a $100 restaurant dinner, a consumer could pay an $8.50 increased sales tax on prepared food (depending on the county) for a total of $108.50. For $100 of clothes, a consumer could pay the $4.75 state sales tax for a total of $104.75 plus the local sales tax.


Can a business charge a soda sales tax on a grocery item? No, unless the item does not qualify as a grocery. Then, the business can charge state sales tax and local surtaxes. If you believe a business is wrongly charging sales taxes, report it to the NC Dept of Revenue and the Better Business Bureau.

Do you have a VERIFY inquiry? Submit a post or selfie video to Meghann Mollerus via:

Facebook: Meghann Mollerus News

E-mail: Mmollerus@wfmy.com

Twitter: @MeghannMollerus