Figuring what candy will be taxed isn't all that sweet

The new law doesn't mandate a tax on candy made with flour so, legally, such candy is a cookie.

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The new taxes approved by the Legislature are merely duct tape, an unattractive way to hold together a state budget about to burst apart.

Lawmakers approved several new taxes expected to bring in about $800 million a year. Some of the money will be generated from closing loopholes and some from so-called sin taxes, from a higher rate on cigarettes to a new fee on candy.

These taxes are relatively minor and likely won't create much of an economic burden.

Although, we were taken aback by what state Department of Revenue officials were required to go through to start collecting the candy tax, which is estimated to bring in about $30 million a year.

The process started with defining candy. According to Section 901 of SB 6143 "candy" is legally "a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. 'Candy' does not include any preparation containing flour and does not require refrigeration."

The flour exemption, which would seem to be a way to separate candy from cakes, cookies and other baked goods, created a tricky loophole for tax collectors.

It forced the Revenue Department to create a list of over 3,200 sweet items that potentially could be subject to the sales tax.

Most of the items were taxable but 260 candies contained flour so are exempt from the sales tax.

Gummi Bears, M&Ms and Three Musketeers are all flour-free so they are taxable but Milky Way, Kit Kat and Twizzlers are made with flour so you won't pay the 8.3 tax starting June 1.

Those selling candy will have to sift through the Department of Revenue list to find out whether or not to collect the tax. The list is extensive and breaks down the items by brand name and category.

Even with over 3,000 items, the list is not comprehensive. Given that, the Department of Revenue has a declaimer on its website -- dor.wa.gov -- that says, "This list identifies taxable candy products and exempt products that are similar to candy. The Department will update the list periodically. The list is not all-inclusive. If a product that appears to be candy is not on the list, you can request a binding ruling from the Department."

Wow. That's a lot of work (and potential hassle) for candy sellers.

But even the most candy-savvy merchants might be confused now and then with the list. Licorice, for example, can be tricky.

"Licorice in most cases has flour in it, but it has to be a grain-based flour, not peanut-based, so some forms of licorice are taxable," said Mike Gowrylow. Department of Revenue spokesman.

Perhaps, for the sake of simplicity, the Legislature could have just thrown an extra tax on duct tape instead. After all, the state is going to need plenty of it to hold the budget together.

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