New year, new senior sales tax

Ringing in the New Year for senior citizens in Juneau might mean ringing up a few items separately at grocery stores.

Starting today, an ordinance passed in September begins that will narrow the senior sales tax that has been in place since 1979, and only half of major grocers have updated systems prepared for the change.

City and Borough of Juneau sales tax administrator Clinton Singletary said Fred Meyer, Safeway and Costco have not yet updated their point of sale systems, so for the time being seniors will have to make two transactions when shopping — one for tax exempt items and another for those not exempt.

Super Bear Supermarket, Wal-Mart and Foodland IGA have systems that can single out exempt items in a single purchase. Breeze In can also handle exempt items in a single transaction.

Though the transactions might be different, the exemptions are the same across all stores. In accordance with the ordinance-only essentials, foods, electricity, heating fuel, City and Borough of Juneau water utilities and garbage collection, and landfill use will be tax exempt for all seniors.

The city predicts this change will net approximately $1 million per year in increased tax revenue. In a previous Empire article, it was reported the city loses $400,000 in tax revenue each year as more people become available for the exemption, according to CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew.

Citizen demographics for Juneau show the percentage of senior citizens growing from 6 percent a few years ago to an estimated 18 percent in the span of five years.

Now, food purchases that qualify for the tax exemption must be Federal Food Stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) exempt. These are strictly items that are for home consumption, which excludes items from places such as the Breeze In or Fred Meyer deli sections.

Singletary said city officials sent information packets to the 3,800 seniors with exemption cards explaining how “essential” items will be determined when grocery shopping.

“A frequent misunderstanding is about that word ‘essential,’” Singletary said. “People will call and say, ‘Well, isn’t such and such an essential?’ But it’s not that ‘essentials’ are being exempted, it’s essential foods and utilities.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP assistance website: “You can use SNAP benefits to buy foods for the household to eat, such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products. You can also use your benefits to buy seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

“You cannot use SNAP benefits to buy beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco; any nonfood items, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products and household supplies; vitamins and medicines; food that will be eaten in the store; and hot foods.”

Although all seniors will be required to pay sales tax for nonessential items, senior couples making less than $49,800 per year — or a single senior making less than $36,800 — will be eligible for a tax rebate based on income.

Rebates will be awarded once per year in September if a senior citizen has their tax exemption card issued by June 30 and does not have an income level exceeding 250 percent of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines for the State of Alaska.

Singletary said his office is ready and willing to answer all questions from concerned citizens. For more information contact the CBJ Finance Department and Sales Tax Division at 586-5265 or visit juneau.org.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 13, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Bill Thomas, a former Republican state representative from Haines, announced Friday he is dropping out of the race for the District 3 House seat this fall. (U.S. Sustainability Alliance photo)
Bill Thomas drops out of District 3 House race, says there isn’t time for fishing and campaigning

Haines Republican cites rough start to commercial season; incumbent Andi Story now unopposed.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks at the Alaska Democratic Party’s state convention on May 18 at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Peltola among few Democrats to vote for annual defense bill loaded with GOP ‘culture war’ amendments

Alaska congresswoman expresses confidence “poison pills” will be removed from final legislation.

A celebratory sign stands outside Goldbelt Inc.’s new building during the Alaska Native Regional Corporation’s 50th-anniversary celebration on Jan. 4. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Medical company sues Goldbelt for at least $30M in contract dispute involving COVID-19 vaccine needles

Company says it was stuck with massive stock of useless needles due to improper specs from Goldbelt.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A yearling black bear waits for its mother to return. Most likely she won’t. This time of year juvenile bears are separated, sometimes forcibly, by their mothers as families break up during mating season. (Photo courtesy K. McGuire)
Bearing witness: Young bears get the boot from mom

With mating season for adults underway, juveniles seek out easy food sources in neighborhoods.

A chart shows COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant during the past three months. (Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System)
Juneau seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases, but a scarcity of self-test kits

SEARHC, Juneau Drug have limited kits; other locations expect more by Saturday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters during a news conference Feb. 7. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy picks second ex-talk radio host for lucrative fish job after first rejected

Rick Green will serve at least through Legislature’s next confirmation votes in the spring of 2025.

Most Read