Proposed Bottled Water Sales Tax Will Hurt Washington’s Consumers and Employers

For Immediate Release
March 5, 2010

Alexandria, VA – Legislators in Olympia are considering removing the state’s sales tax exemption for bottled water, a federally regulated food product, in order to make headway in balancing the state budget. “Unfortunately, for many citizens of Washington, this ill-advised sales tax proposal is a major step backwards as many in the state rely on bottled water for their health and well-being,” said Tom Lauria, Vice President of Communications for the International Bottled Water Association.

Bottled water is regulated as a food at the federal and state level and should not be unfairly singled out for taxation. It is also covered as a food item under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).

For some consumers – such as chemotherapy and transplant patient, elderly, infants or those with immune deficiencies, such as HIV and AIDS – bottled water is the only option for their daily water needs. It is unfair to single out one of the most important ingredients to their diet.

Bottled water is not a luxury product. It is indispensable to victims during emergency situations, such as fires, earth quakes or compromised public water systems. Washington should not tax a product essential to sustaining victims of disaster. Many citizens prepare for natural disasters by buying bottled water and storing it in their homes. Look no further than the devastating flooding in the western part of Washington State in early 2009. In addition, the bottled water industry has rapidly stepped to the front and donated water in emergency situations. It is bad public policy to tax citizens and bottled water companies for their efforts to manage emergency situations.

All taxes should be broad-based and fair. Singling out bottled water from other food products for taxation will not provide a substantial or stable source of revenue for government funding. It will cost jobs and hurt the small bottled water companies in Washington that support their communities and contribute to the economic vitality of the state. IBWA estimates that the tax will cost more than 300 jobs in Washington. It is a high price to pay to raise less than $30 million (less than 5% of the revenue needed in the House proposed tax package). In addition, a tax on food, including bottled water, is regressive. It has the greatest impact on lower-income households who can least afford the burden.

“Bottled water is a very healthy choice within the beverage market. It contains no calories, additives, cholesterol or sweeteners and is an essential element for some to meet their hydration needs. Tax policy should never discourage people from making healthy choices in their diet,” Lauria said.

Contact: TOM LAURIA
703-647-4609 office / 703-887-4056 cellphone

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The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters. Founded in 1958, IBWA's membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water products. In addition to FDA and state regulations, the Association requires member bottlers to adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is an annual, unannounced plant inspection by an independent, third party organization. Consumers can contact IBWA at 1-800-WATER-11 or log onto IBWA's web site (www.bottledwater.org) for more information about bottled water and a list of members' brands. Media inquiries can be directed to VP of Communications Tom Lauria at 703-647-4609 or tlauria@bottledwater.org.