Insights

Washington State's Taxability of Soft Drinks and Other Beverages

The Washington State Department of Revenue discusses the taxability of soft drinks and other beverages in a special notice, issued December 2, 2015. The notice explains which beverages are exempt from sales tax, which are subject to sales tax, alcoholic beverages, and food purchased with food stamps.

The State Department of Revenue Special Notice relating to taxability of soft drinks and other beverages is as follows:

What beverages are exempt from sales tax?

Beverages sold in sealed containers that contain any of the following are exempt from sales tax:

  • milk
  • milk products
  • milk substitutes
  • 50% of vegetable juice (by volume)
  • 50% of fruit juice (by volume)

Frozen, powdered, or concentrated beverages are also exempt from sales tax.

What beverages are subject to sales tax?

  • prepared beverages such as hot and iced coffee/tea, fountain or blended drinks, beer and wine
  • soft drinks (sweetened, 50% or less fruit/vegetable juice, no milk or milk substitutes), including:
  • sports drinks
  • bottled tea/coffee, sweetened, no milk
  • lemonade
  • soda pop
  • tonic water
  • flavored water with sweeteners
  • “juices” with 50 percent or less fruit juice
  • “energy” drinks

Spirits: spirits are not included in the definition of “food and food ingredients.” Sales of spirits in the original package are subject to the spirits sales tax and the spirits liter tax. See the department’s website for more information on taxing spirit sales.

Food stamps: eligible foods purchased with food coupons (under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are exempt from sales tax. This includes otherwise taxable soft drinks.

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