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Ice, heated food, & medicine | Everything California can tax you for at the grocery store

California is ranked at #9 for average sales tax in the Country.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has one of the highest sales tax averages in the Country, with a long list of taxable items that can be found in common grocery stores.

The combination of state and local sales tax rates came out to 8.56 percent, according to Tax Foundation, and — as of Jan. 2019 — California was ranked #9 for the highest sales tax average in the country. 

Even though income taxes get a lot of attention from January to April, sales tax is ever present whenever customers see a grocery store receipt.

What's taxable at a California grocery store?


  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Carbonated and effervescent water
  • Carbonated soft drinks and mixes
  • Kombucha tea (if the alcohol content is 0.5% or greater by volume)


  • Books and publications
  • Cameras and film
  • Newspapers and periodicals

Medications, cosmetics, household items

  • Cosmetics
  • Dietary supplements
  • Drug sundries, toys, hardware, and household goods
  • Medicated gum (Nicorette, Aspergum)
  • Over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin, cough syrups, cough drops, throat lozenges, and so forth
  • Soaps or detergents


  • Ice
  • Hot prepared food products
  • Food sold for consumption on your premises (see Foodservice operations)
  • Pet food and supplies

Some items were more difficult to place in specific categories but included "Nursery stock," "Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services," "Sporting goods," "Clothing," and "Fixtures and equipment used in an activity requiring the holding of a seller's permit, if sold at retail."

What can't be taxed at a California grocery store?


  • Baby formulas (including Isomil)
  • Edge Bars, Energy Bars, Power Bars
  • Pedialyte
  • Noncarbonated sports drinks ( Gatorade, Powerade, All-Sport)


  • Cooking wine
  • Food products
  • Granola Bars


  • Kombucha tea (if less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume and naturally effervescent)
  • Martinelli's Sparkling Cider
  • Water — bottled noncarbonated, noneffervescent drinking water

According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, taxes also don't generally apply to food products that people eat or nutritional drinks that are milk and juice-based and promote themselves as having additional nutrients. 

For hot food, one of the notable exceptions is "Hot Baked Goods," like pretzels or croissants that are sold to go.


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