Food, pop, candy, water, beer: Do you know what should and shouldn’t be taxed in Ohio?

Ohioans set the rules back in 1936
No matter what the policy is, hang on to your receipts. (Source: file photo)
No matter what the policy is, hang on to your receipts. (Source: file photo)
Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 at 1:55 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -Over the weekend a man picking up a to go order from a popular restaurant in the Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood pulled gun on the owner after arguing about the sales tax on his take-out order.

The man took the food without paying and was gone before police arrived.

The list of sales tax rules on what is and isn’t taxed is enough to make a person’s head spin.

Ohio consumers should be checking receipts to make sure when they pay for food and drink it’s being taxed properly.

In Ohio the base sales tax is 5.75 percent.

On top of that, counties are allowed to add additional taxes.

The county with the highest sales tax in the state is Cuyahoga, which is the only county with an 8 percent sales tax.

The overwhelming majority of counties, 52 of 88, have a sales tax rate of 7.25 percent.

But you don’t always have to pay the tax and there is a general rule when it comes to food an drink:

If food is purchased for consumption off-premise where sold: No tax

If consumed on-premise: It’s taxable

“Ohio voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1936 which excluded food for human consumption from sales tax if the food was consumed off-premises,” according to Gary Gudmundson, with the Ohio Department of Taxation. "Practically, that meant groceries were not taxed but meals prepared and consumed in a restaurant were taxed.

The rational was that if you could afford to eat in a restaurant, it was seen as a luxury, and should be taxed.

There are, of course, several exceptions and rules:

  • Drive through food: Not taxed
  • If you walk into a restaurant, order food to go: Not taxed 
  • Order food, and eat it there: Taxed
  • Pop: Not considered food, so even if you ordered it to go: Taxed
  • Bottled water: Considered food, needed to sustain life: Not taxed
  • Bottled water with natural or artificial sweetener: Taxed
  • Plain coffee or tea: If it is ordered to go, and plain, it is considered food: Not taxed
  • Coffee or tea with cream: Not taxed
  • Coffee or tea with sugar/sweetener: It depends on if they charged you for it. If the business is nice enough put sugar or sweetener in for free: Not taxed. If they charged you for those two pumps of pumpkin spice: Taxed
  • Alcohol: Taxed 
  • Cooking wine/alcohol: Not taxed
  • Non-alcoholic beer: If it’s less than 0.5 percent alcohol: Not taxed
  • Candy, chewing gum, breath mints: You can inject them as food: Not taxed
  • Ice for consumption: Not taxed
  • Ice for cooling purposes: Taxed
  • Fruit or vegetable juice: If it’s made up of 50 percent or more of fruit or vegetable juice: Not taxed

The Ohio Department of Taxation has put out a list of even more taxable and non-taxable items.

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