Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Take Out Is Cheaper? Sometimes

Past L.P. gubernatorial candidate and San Diego anti- tax gadfly, Richard Rider, clarified something for me the other day: It can be cheaper buying take- out food than eating or drinking it where you bought it since sales tax is applied to food eaten in- store but not to take- out.

Funny. I had it in my mind it was the other way around. In fact, his e-mail was rather timely as I was curious buying an iced tea at Eureka's Fresh Freeze yesterday. The menu said a large iced tea was $2.25 or thereabouts and I paid more than that when all was said and done. I figured it must be sales tax, having assumed take- out is taxed.

The gal at Fresh Freeze never asked if the iced tea was for take- out, but they always do when I buy food there.

Here's a link Rider provided and here's Rider's piece on it:

The sales tax rules on food and drink purchased in fast food joints is tricky indeed, and varies from state to state. I bet a goodly number of these eateries do it wrong.
Here's some advice -- whether or not you want to eat in the building, ALWAYS say it is "to go." Skip the food tray, and maybe skip the sales tax. Or maybe not. No fast food outlet will care whether you change your mind and actually DO stay inside to eat -- they are just following the government's sales tax procedures.
Of course, it is more complicated than that. Coffee at a Starbucks almost surely can avoid the sales tax if it is "to go." But at Subway, it is best to order your COLD subway sandwich and drink separately from your hot food, as they will likely charge a sales tax on the full amount, even though only part of the order is hot food (such as their wonderful meatball sandwich).
For restaurants where 80% of the food is consumed on the grounds, they likely will always charge sales tax on everything -- following the law.
It's a rather complicated law. There is a 30 page oddly readable tome available online from the CA Board of Equalization. It is "must reading" for any restaurant owner.
So remember my skinflint motto -- when in doubt, "take it out."


At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 6:52 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

Fred,please don't tell me that your one of these folks who tells the person at the register to not add any ice,so that you get more ice tea,and then just ice it down when you get home.I had a friend who used to do that,and it drove me nuts for some reason.

At 7:56 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

And if not,I hope I didn't give you an idea.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Hmmm....Good idea???

Actually, the wifey always makes the iced tea a little bit strong, so as the ice melts it loosens it up a bit.

Actually, nope, I never ask them to do that. That's the first time I've bought iced tea at Fresh Freeze in years. I've been buying it at the Amigas Burritos, in Cutten, mostly.

They don't put more than half a cup of ice in at Amigas. In fact, sometimes the tea is still warm from just being brewed. They'll put half a cup of ice in, if that, and then ask me if I need more ice since the ice often melts real fast from the warm (almost hot) tea.

Cheaper at Amigas, but smaller cup.

Oh, and I don't usually have ice in the freezer at home. When some is needed, it's usually made a day beforehand.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Oh, btw: Bought lunch at Steve's Coney Island in Henderson Center today. Hamburger and fries. I ordered it To Go. Paid the same price as was listed on the menu. No sales tax.

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous mresquan said...

Haven't been there in a while.Usually try to hit up Deo's on Grotto St.or Vellutini's.Both of those places can make some tasty sandwiches.Deo's is too small of a spot for me to be comfortable eating at,so I'll get it to go and I guess,avoid the tax.And Vellutini's gets too damn crowded for me,so I hike on out of there too,again avoiding the sales tax.Henderson Center has some good eating joints which I often forget about.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger hucktunes said...

Opera Ally Bistro sure has some tasty burgers and fries.

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I paid my subscription to the Times-Standard the other day the options were to pay for the whole year or by monthly debit which ends up being cheaper because they don't charge sales tax on the latter. Does that make sense?


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