No, Ohio does not have a sugar tax.

7/10/2013 01:08:00 PM
This has really annoyed me lately. Apparently fast food chains in Ohio, including McDonalds and Burgerking, have been informing their employees that the state has recently enacted a new "sugar tax" which now applies to sodas and sweetened iced tea. NO! That is completely incorrect, based on untrue lobbyist propaganda.

Here's the source of the lie: in Ohio, as in most states, there is a special sales tax exemption for food consumed off-premises (groceries and carry-out). However, this exemption does not apply to soft drinks, and as far as I can tell, never has (this has not changed since at least before 2004).

Without further ado, here is the language from the Ohio Revised Code:
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Food" means substances, whether in liquid, concentrated, solid, frozen, dried, or dehydrated form, that are sold for ingestion or chewing by humans and are consumed for their taste or nutritional value. "Food" does not include alcoholic beverages, dietary supplements, soft drinks, or tobacco.(2) As used in division (EEE)(1) of this section:
(c) "Soft drinks" means nonalcoholic beverages that contain natural or artificial sweeteners. "Soft drinks" does not include beverages that contain milk or milk products, soy, rice, or similar milk substitutes, or that contains greater than fifty per cent vegetable or fruit juice by volume
5739.02 excise tax is hereby levied on each retail sale made in this state.
(B) The tax does not apply to the following:
(2) Sales of food for human consumption off the premises where sold;
That language was last changed in 2004, though the 2004 change did not in any way alter the scope or effect of the law--sales taxes on soft drinks go much further back.

The bottom line is this: Ohio does not have an excise tax on sugary drinks. That "sugar tax" they are lobbying against is the ordinary sales tax, which applies to all goods sold in the state of Ohio, save for a few limited exemptions enumerated in ORC §5736.02(B).

It is true that in the past Ohio has had a sugar tax. Governor Voinovich enacted one in 1994 to help balance the state budget. The tax was completely repealed by an initiative measure on the 1994 ballot.