Statement: Elimination of grocery sales tax is far too little support for low- and middle-income families

Statement from OK Policy’s Executive Director Shiloh Kantz about elimination of the state portion of grocery sales taxes: 

While elimination of the state portion of the grocery sales tax provides a measure of financial relief to some Oklahomans, it’s far too little support for our low – and middle-income families and seniors who need it most. 

We urge lawmakers to explore options that would more effectively deliver targeted relief to Oklahoma families, with the two best options being: 

  1. Modernizing Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit — an existing credit that already helps offset some sales tax costs for low-income families. (House Bill 3987
  2. Providing a targeted tax rebate that phases out benefits for higher-income households. 

The Sales Tax Relief Credit has been helping low- and moderate-income Oklahoma families offset the cost of all sales taxes since it was established in 1990. But it hasn’t been adjusted in more than three decades. 

Expanding the Sales Tax Relief Credit would put about $157 million back into the pockets of low- and moderate-income families and seniors, and it would help offset local sales taxes for claimants. Expanding the Sales Tax Relief Credit would deliver targeted relief with 98.3% of the tax benefit going to taxpayers making less than $76,000/year. 

For many Oklahomans, expanding the STRC saves them more money compared to eliminating the state share of the sales tax on groceries. HB 3987 is an important bill that deserves support from lawmakers.

Lawmakers this session advanced House Bill 3402 that would provide a one-time rebate to all Oklahoma households regardless of income level. Providing a one-time rebate is more fiscally responsible than permanent revenue cuts that likely will never be recovered, but this measure needs to be strengthened to add phase outs for higher-income levels. Oklahoma’s millionaires don’t need the support; hard-working Oklahoman families do. 

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Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.