Movie theater food subject to normal tax, Mo. SC rules

John O'Brien Oct. 5, 2011, 10:19am


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - The price of popcorn at Missouri movie theaters will not be going down any time soon, following a ruling from the state Supreme Court.

The court ruled Tuesday that food sold at movie theatres in the state are subject to a 4 percent tax and not the 1 percent tax argued by Wehrenberg, Inc. The company owns 12 movie theaters in Missouri.

Wehrenberg had been charging customers the 4 percent tax when it filed a sales tax refund claim with the Director of Revenue.

The 1 percent tax is imposed on the sale of "those products and types of food for which food stamps may be redeemed pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Food Stamp Act."

That law defines "food" as "any food or food product for home consumption."

Chief Justice Richard Teitelman wrote, "There is no doubt that the food sold at the theater concession stand is for consumption at the theater and are not sold for home consumption. Consequently, the 1 percent state sales tax rate... does not apply to Wehrenberg's concession sales."

Wehrenberg said the relevant issue is whether items like popcorn and nachos are types of food for which food stamps may be redeemed. However, since the FFSA specifically defined what it meant by "food," the argument fails, Teitelman said.

"Adopting Wehrenberg's argument would render the reference... superfluous," he wrote.

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