Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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Wylie wants sales-tax exemption for Papa Murphy’s

Vancouver Democrat working on legislation she plans to soon introduce

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published:
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State Rep.
State Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, is preparing a bill that would exempt take-and-bake pizzas made by Papa Murphy's from sales taxes. Photo Gallery

Papa Murphy’s Take ‘n’ Bake Pizza executives said their product is best served hot, fresh — and without a side of sales tax.

Rep. Sharon Wylie agrees. The Democratic lawmaker called it an “equity issue.”

If you buy a frozen pizza in the grocery store, you don’t pay a sales tax. But if you decide it’s a “take-and-bake” kind of night, the total tab will include a sales tax.

The pizza is “affordable and fairly healthy,” Wylie said.

Tacking on a sales tax “seems unfair to a lot of people,” she added.

Wylie is working on legislation she plans to introduce in the coming weeks that would exempt the pizza company from collecting a sales tax.

Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza company operates in 38 states, each one with varying policies over whether the company is required to collect sales tax. The pizza company, based in Vancouver, has 11 stores in Clark County and nearly 200 in the state of Washington.

At the heart of this issue is whether take-and-bake pizzas should be considered prepared foods, which are defined by the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board as having more than two ingredients mixed by the seller and being sold as one item.

The board, a consortium of 24 member states including Washington, aims to make sales and tax laws uniform and streamlined.

Craig Johnson, the executive director of the board, said prepared foods are subject to a sales tax. So if you’re “mixing meat, crust, sauce and cheese and you’re selling it as a single item, that’s within the definition of prepared foods,” he said.

But in 2014, the board decided to carve out an exception within the definition of “prepared foods.”

Food that “ordinarily requires additional cooking, opposed to reheating, by the consumer prior to consumption,” could be exempted.

“So now states have the option to tax or not,” Johnson said.

The board’s decision could mean Wylie has a better shot at getting her legislation passed into law.

But in a legislative session where lawmakers are tasked with how to adequately fund the state’s public schools and find increased resources for mental health issues, anything that could dip into the state’s coffers is likely to face some opposition.

Wylie’s bill is still being drafted, and it’s unclear what kind of impact it would have on the state’s revenue.

If it’s a big hit, Wylie is frank, “it may kill the bill,” she said.

A spokeswoman with the state’s department of revenue said on Friday she was not sure how much revenue the tax raises.

The Vancouver-based pizza company is holding out hope its hometown lawmaker will succeed.

“Eliminating the sales tax would benefit consumers and allow us to provide our customers a fresh, healthy meal that families can bake at home,” said Victoria Blackwell, chief legal officer for Papa Murphy’s, in a statement.

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