Philly ramps up to collect tax on sweetened beverages in New Year

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Philadelphia Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin and Mayor Jim Kenney talk about the framework for collecting the city's new tax on sweetened beverages (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin and Mayor Jim Kenney talk about the framework for collecting the city's new tax on sweetened beverages (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Implementation of Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages, better known as the “soda tax,” begins Jan. 1.  The city is ramping up to make sure every 1.5 cents per ounce are collected.

 

 

The city is adding staff in advance of the New Year to aid in that collection, said Revenue Commissioner Frank Breslin.

 “It is important for businesses to understand that, even though there is an ongoing legal challenge, they need to comply with the existing law,” Breslin said Friday. “The city will have enforcement measures in place to penalize those who are not in compliance.”

Any business owner confused about the tax or how to comply can visit a new website, officials said.

The tax is vital to funding expanded pre-K, as well as improvements to recreation facilities and libraries, said Mayor Jim Kenney, adding that officials want to make sure distributors and others who have to pay the tax begin on the day it’s implemented.

“The results of the legal challenges will be what they are,” Kenney said. “We are proceeding in a legal fashion based on the law that was passed … and we are moving forward.  We have no concerns about collections and the end result of the lawsuit, because we are going to win.”

Anthony Campisi, spokesman for Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax coalition, called the tax onerous, saying it will hurt working-class businesses and families by raising the tax on 1,000 kinds  of beverages.

“The tax is simply a money grab for the city’s general fund and not a necessity for the education of our children,” Campisi said.

The mayor went on to say that small-business owners who think they can avoid the tax by purchasing soda in New Jersey or outside the city will face a $1,000 fine on every invoice where they don’t pay the levy. They will also have to pay the tax.

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