Keep Seattle Livable For All

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Beverage Tax?
Seattle’s City Council is considering whether to approve a referendum on placing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, juice drinks, sports drinks and iced teas. This tax on the distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages will be passed on to you and raise prices on hundreds of beverages in restaurants and grocery stores.
How much is this beverage tax going to cost me?

Mayor Murray has proposed a 1.75¢ per ounce beverage tax. That adds up. A 12-pack of 12-ounce soda cans could cost an extra $2.52, a 2-liter (68-oz.) bottle of soda could set you back an extra $1.19 and a 10-pack of 6-oz. juice boxes could add $1.05 to the price.

If this bill is enacted, hardworking Seattle families will be saddled with paying this substantial tax.

I’ve heard this tax referred to as “regressive.” What do people mean by that?

You will often hear taxes like the Beverage Tax referred to as "regressive." That’s because taxes like this one disproportionately affect low-income and working class families who spend a larger percentage of their income on food than wealthier families.

As this Tax Foundation article recently pointed out: “a 10 percent soda tax could burden high-income families by $24.29, while poor families would be harmed nearly twice that amount at $47.38.” Read more about regressive beverage taxes here.

Which beverages would be affected by this tax?

The proposal applies to any beverage with added sugar – that could translate to hundreds of beverages like sodas, juice drinks, energy drinks, coffee drinks, diet beverages, some teas and sports drinks—even kombucha.

Who’s going to pay for the tax?

You will. All taxes are paid by the consumer. Whether the tax is slapped on wholesalers or retailers, the amount of that tax is added to the price. This is what happened in Philadelphia, where people were shocked to find their beverages had doubled in price in some cases overnight.

Where is the money going?

Mayor Murray says the reason for the tax is two-fold:

  1. A portion of the revenue will be dedicated to targeted education efforts.
  2. Murray contends the beverage tax will enhance health.

With regard to education, Seattle taxpayers and small businesses are in favor of making sure all Seattle students have equal opportunities to succeed in school. However, there must be a better way to achieve this goal without resorting to a highly regressive tax that makes prices skyrocket on working families and hurts Seattle’s small businesses.

With respect to health, soda taxes do not change behaviors in any meaningful way. Education and collaboration that teaches balanced lifestyles is the key.

How will this tax affect Seattle residents and businesses?

This tax is regressive because it disproportionately impacts the grocery bills of those who can least afford it. It’s unfair that the wealthy pay a much smaller share of their income under this beverage tax, which exempts other high-end drinks like espresso. Neighborhood grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other local businesses will be hit especially hard. They will lose sales when people cross the border to shop in stores outside city limits to avoid the tax. Losing business like that means a loss of income for employees whose hours are trimmed, or worse, jobs are cut.

What can I do to stop this tax?

You can contact your city councilors and ask them to vote NO on this proposal. By raising your objection, you’ll send a clear message to City Hall that Seattle residents and businesses have higher priorities for city government than taxing beverages.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest tax developments by joining our growing citizens’ coalition.


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