CSUN students, and at any other school in California, don’t necessarily have to be concerned with having to pay taxes when buying food served by a school.
According to the California State Board of Equalization, “food served in a heated condition (except hot bakery items or hot beverages, such as coffee, sold for a separate price), served as meals, consumed at or on the seller’s facilities, ordinarily sold for consumption on or near the seller’s parking facility, or sold for consumption where there is an admission charge” are not exempt from tax.
However, there are exceptions when serving food to students. BOE Regulation 1603 states that any meals or food products sold to students by either a public or private school “are exempt from tax.”
At CSUN, places such as the Sierra Center and The Pub do not charge taxes on food sales because the food is sold directly from the school.
There are some exceptions to that rule, too. If an outside meal provider sells food directly to the students, those sales are taxable. Panda Express, El Pollo Loco and Burger King all apply tax to the food they sell to students on campus.
Places that charge for admission have other rules, as well. Regulation 1603 says, “When food products are sold by a student organization (?) within in a place the entrance to which is subject to an admission charge (?) the sales to both students and nonstudents are taxable.”
Over time, taxes can put a big dent in a person’s budget, particularly students who do not have a lot of extra money lying around to begin with.
When the Sierra Center food complex first opened, many people may remember that the cashiers would ask all the customers whether they were a student.
Rachel Milne, a senior anthropology major, said cashiers no longer have asked whenever she has gotten food on campus recently.
Campus employees still pay taxes on food that is exempt for students. The BOE does not exempt employee meals from taxes.
Questions remain whether the cashiers at the food service centers still ask customers for their status or how they differentiate between students and employees. CSUN administrators of campus dining or commercial services failed to respond to a reporter’s efforts to contact them for comment.
Currently in California the sales tax rate is 8.25 percent. For example, if a student buys their lunch/dinner two days a week at a price of $6 per meal, they spend $192 a semester on food. If the meals are taxed, an extra $15.84 is paid.
A bottle of water purchased from one of the outside meal providers is taxed. Water from a vending machine or from one of the convenient stores on campus, such as The Exchange or The Edge, are not taxed.
Milne said she didn’t realize that some of the food service facilities on campus didn’t charge tax. She said she does not buy food that often from school, but that paying the taxes “doesn’t make a difference. It’s only a few cents more.”
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