When Julie Abel goes grocery shopping each week, she drives more than 25 miles to Georgia to avoid paying the nation’s highest average tax on food: 8.4 percent in Tennessee.
“If you can save $5 it is worth driving down the road,” Abel said after traveling from her rural home in Hamilton County, which collects 2.22 percent sales tax on food on top of the 6 percent for the state. Georgia does not tax food sales.
Abel is not alone in her frustration. Rep. Michael Kernell, D-Memphis, said he regularly hears complaints about the state’s almost 60-year-old food tax and he predicted it would change.
“A lot of people can’t believe it,” he said. “People are leaving the state to buy groceries.”
As a strong advocate for lower taxes and having worked this particular issue in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, I am in disbelief that anyone would find this shocking or even newsworthy. Of course people wish to pay less for the same product — taxes or no taxes. And people are pretty opposed to taxation, too — especially in the heart of the south.
Perhaps Tennessee is starting to get what folks in Alabama have known, though:
Chris Daly, chairman of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, wants to end the state’s tax on food because he said it victimizes low and middle income people.
I used those arguments again and again during the Alabama tax debacle, where we (rich and poor alike) took the Republican governor’s proposal for the largest tax increase in state history and shoved it up his [you know what]. I’ve spent a lot of time canvassing the streets in Birmingham’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods and their word is typically the same as in lily-white agricultural areas and smaller towns: We can no longer allow these outrageous taxes.
Perhaps others in the south are now getting it, too. I’ve met Kimble Forester of Alabama ARISE on several occasions, and we agree upon and are allied on many civil liberties and justice-related issues — but not typically on taxation. From the article:
Another report by Tennesseans for Fair Taxation shows average sales taxes on food in states that border Tennessee range from no tax in Kentucky to 8 percent in both Alabama and Arkansas.
In Alabama, a spokesman for Montgomery-based Alabama Arise, an advocacy group for the poor, said there is an ongoing effort to eliminate or at least reduce the tax on food.
“We are taxing the poor on the necessities of life and that is something most states avoid. But we are doing it with pride,” said Alabama Arise director Kimble Forrister.
Welcome aboard, Kimble. Maybe we can now work together to get rid of a very wide range of oppressive taxation.