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Confusion Among Berkeley Retailers On Who Is Supposed To Pay New Tax On Sodas

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- They knew it was coming, but that doesn't make Berkeley's new soda tax any easier to swallow. Among retailers and restaurants, there is confusion about who is supposed to pay new 1 cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages.

While the cost of sodas increased to nearly $3 at some Berkeley retailers, others haven't changed a thing. And at least one popular restaurant added an itemized 22 cent measured D tax to the bill for every fountain drink, sugar sweetened or not.

Under Measure D, the tax is only supposed to be paid on sugar-sweetened beverages, and the soda distributor is the one who is supposed to pay the tax.

"It's a little misleading. First of all, it's not a tax on the consumer," Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli told KPIX 5. While the distributor is taxed, it can be passed down to the consumer, in the form of higher drink prices or even a soda surcharge.

Semantics aside, Capitelli is more concerned about establishments charging more for both regular and sugar-free drinks, which defeats the purpose of the bill.

Burgermeister, a restaurant that added a surcharge to all fountain drinks, has apologized for the mistake.

The city now has plans for an outreach program to clarify the measure for retailers. Berkeley will plan to collect the tax from distributors starting this month.


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