Hey, Watch the Excessive Sales Tax on My Margarita!

Hey, Watch the Excessive Sales Tax on My Margarita!
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

A few months ago, I wrote in my column Sales Tax – How High is Too High? that many towns have sales tax rates close to or exceeding 10%. That has really started to make me change my buying behavior. Being a financial educator, I have always tried to remain neutral, explaining both sides of an issue so others can make a more educated decision. I’m not one to publicly rant but the over-reliance on sales taxes by local and state governments has really started to bug me.

margaritaBut now they have gone too far by increasing the sales tax on my margarita.

Earlier this month my husband and I went to our local Mexican restaurant for dinner. We ordered two combination plates and two margaritas on the rocks. Our bill came to $29.99 before tax. I notice the sales tax was over $4.00. That’s more than 10%. Our local sales tax rate is 8.813%. Smoke started coming from my ears. I had to ask our waitress about it.

It turns out I wasn’t the only customer to question why the sales taxes had gone up. After doing some calculations with the manager, she came back with the answer for us. It now appears that an extra 5% is being charged for alcohol purchases.

I don’t remember voting for this increase in the sales tax rate.

Was this on the ballot for one of those “minor” elections during which I was out of town on business? I do remember my jubilation when my county finally voted “Yes” on the ballot initiative to be able to buy a glass of wine in restaurants on Sundays. Could this sales tax increase been written in the fine print? I always read my ballot initiatives ahead of time before I go vote. This one got by me.

This sales tax hurts restaurant employees.

Our waitress sensed she had a sympathetic audience so she told us how she was being affected by all this. Can you believe she and all the other wait staff have to each buy an annual $600 permit to be able to serve alcohol? These workers barely make enough money to make ends meet. When government officials come into the restaurant to do an audit, they need to be shown the permits of every member of the wait staff working during that shift or face penalties.

To add insult to injury, she has to provide documentation with her permit application that she can legally work in the U.S. Isn’t her employer supposed to have already gone through this when she was hired? Why does she have to repeat this process every year?

On the way out the door and all the way home from the restaurant I kept repeating “This is so stupid.”

I know supporters of this new tax will say that I don’t have to have a margarita when I go out to dinner. It’s my choice. If I want to drink then I have to face the consequences. That’s not the point. Remember the Boston Tea Party?

I need a drink after writing this. Thanks for listening.