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Candy Taxes

Julie Laskaris headshot

Did you know Sour Patch Kids and Snickers are not equal when it comes to how much you ultimately pay for them?

As you fill your trick-or-treat bowls and stomachs with different types of candy this Halloween, Hayes Holderness, assistant professor of law and a tax law expert, can discuss why certain types of that Halloween candy are taxed differently than others.

"Many people believe that the basics — food, shelter, medicine, etc. — should not be subject to sales taxes, and for good reason: we don't want to overly burden the neediest parts of society with taxes," Holderness says. "But not all food is equally necessary for basic survival, so shouldn't those items be taxed? Take candy for instance, surely that Snickers is a luxury treat. Even so, many states continue to exempt it from sales tax, even though Sour Patch Kids bear the full weight of the taxes. Why? It's the flour content. It turns out that drawing administrable lines of taxability can be an incredibly difficult task, whether we're talking about food or computer software. So 'candy' for tax purposes often means a confection without flour."

"Picture your two favorite candies; mine are Sour Patch Kids and Kit Kat. But looking at many state's sales tax laws, one of my favorites isn't actually 'candy.' Because of its flour content Kit Kat is simply food, which isn't so bad a deal. That means it is subject to reduced tax rates available for basic necessities such as food and medicine. So break me off a piece of that tax-free bar," Hayes continues.

Contact Sunni Brown (sbrown5@richmond.edu), assistant director or media and public relations, to connect with Hayes.

When is candy candy?

"Picture your two favorite candies; mine are Sour Patch Kids and Kit Kat. But looking at many state's sales tax laws, one of my favorites isn't actually 'candy.' Because of its flour content Kit Kat is simply food, which isn't so bad a deal. That means it is subject to reduced tax rates available for basic necessities such as food and medicine. So break me off a piece of that tax-free bar!"

-Hayes Holderness, University of Richmond tax law professor