Philadelphia Goes Over the Tax Cliff

Starting January 1st, Philadelphia implemented the first ever tax on all sweetened beverages, including those sweetened with artificial sweeteners. The $0.015 tax is being levied on distributors of these beverages, even if the distributor is outside the city of Philadelphia. It sounds like a very minimal tax, but please read on…

From the official Philadelphia website:

Distributors of sweetened beverages.

distributor is any person who sells sweetened beverages to a dealer. A dealer is any person who sells sweetened beverages at retail, for example, delis, restaurants, or grocery stores.

If you are a dealer of sweetened beverages, you need to do two things:

Buy the products from a registered distributor. If you do not purchase from a registered distributor, you will have to register and pay the tax directly to the City of Philadelphia.

Notify the distributor that Sweetened Beverages sold to you are subject to the tax. Even if your distributor is outside of Philadelphia, they still must file to become a registered distributor with the City. If you do not purchase from a registered distributor and notify them that they must pay the tax on products they sell to you, you are subject to the tax if you sell sweetened beverages in Philadelphia.

What is taxed

The tax is not just on sodas. This tax is on any non-alcoholic beverage, syrup, or other concentrate used to prepare a beverage that lists as an ingredient any form of caloric sugar-based sweetener, including, but not limited to sucrose, glucose, or high fructose corn syrup.

Drinks considered “diet” or “zero calorie” are also taxed. Specifically, this tax is on any non-alcoholic beverage, syrup or other concentrate used to prepare a beverage that lists any form of artificial sugar substitute, including stevia, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin, and advantame.

Examples of sweetened beverages

Soda (regular and diet); non-100%-fruit drinks; sports drinks; sweetened water; energy drinks; pre-sweetened coffee or tea; and non-alcoholic beverages intended to be mixed into an alcoholic drink.

To put this in context, if you buy a 12 pack of 12-ounce sodas you will be paying an additional $2.16 for the privilege -- even if it’s diet soda and contains no sugar. Most of these beverages have an additional Pennsylvania Sales Tax of 6%. If you are lucky enough to find a 12 pack of soda on sale for $3.00, your total cost will be $5.34. Protein shakes which many seniors on fixed incomes drink to supplement their diet also contain sugar and will include this onerous tax.

How do you exactly determine the amount of beverage that will be added into an alcoholic drink? The business owner will know how much of each beverage they purchase, but how do they fairly determine the amount added to each drink? Bartending isn’t an exact science and your drink might have more other beverage than mine if I want more ice. Regardless, we will both probably pay the same amount of tax.

The stated goal of these bureaucrats is to get people to drink water. Obviously, they didn’t consider the impact on their population, which is overwhelmingly poor and black. They didn’t consider the impact on businesses, which not only will be passing the cost along to their customers, but have a paper nightmare to deal with. Or, they considered the impact and simply didn’t care.  

Philadelphia also has a city wage tax paid by both residents and non-residents who work in the city, further reducing the income of all Philadelphia residents. As a boon to the residents, the city wage tax was reduced in 2016 from 3.9102% to 3.9004%.

Who are these politicians who think they are the arbiters of people’s health? They’re liberals, who have been driving Philadelphia into a poverty ridden abyss for decades. And now they are targeting people who are often the poorest of the poor.

Where is the outrage? The demonstrations? Shouldn’t the women who put on their ‘pussy’ hats to adamantly and stridently speak out for the continued right to remove viable fetuses and kill them just prior to birth strenuously object to someone trying to tell them what to put in their bodies? Unfortunately, people seem to just accept taxes, whether fair and justified or not.

This is just another way for the liberals to raise money. Anyone who thinks they care about you is seriously deluded. They care about the revenues and will vilify anyone who questions them.

When the government went after cigarettes, I felt we were heading down a slippery slope. If they could excessively tax cigarettes and get people to vilify those who smoked, they would be free to keep increasing those taxes. Make no mistake, there are many more diseases caused by obesity than smoking but at the time it was easier to go after smokers. I said then that if enough people stopped smoking and there were not enough revenues generated they would go after anything they felt was bad for your health. And I was right. If this stands, wait for taxes to be put on other items containing sugar. And, other cash-strapped municipalities will follow the lead of Philadelphia.

I was born and raised in Philadelphia. It was a beautiful old and historically important city. Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed is in Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell is in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Betsy Ross and many other founders worshipped at Old Christ Church. But, under decades of liberal administrations, the city has deteriorated to the point where when I visited a few years ago I didn’t even recognize the neighborhood around LaSalle University or Central High School. This tax certainly won’t help the situation because it will be squandered like the Philadelphia city wage tax and the incredible amount of money collected from other counties in Pennsylvania and sent to Philadelphia to support a school system which is failing their students in a spectacular fashion.

The swamp in Philadelphia needs to be drained just like the swamp in Washington. As for me, I’m off to have a Pepsi.

Claire Hawks is a gray haired granny who is retired from both her nursing and IT careers. You may contact her at

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