Tennesseans backing effort to end state grocery tax

Rep. Aftyn Behn, Sen. Charlane Oliver aim to lower costs for working families

Tennessee Senate Democrats
3 min readJan 23, 2024

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NASHVILLE — Public support is growing behind a legislative effort to end Tennessee’s tax on groceries — one of the highest in the nation. Only 13 states still tax this family necessity — a policy design that hits lower-income families hardest.

Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville, and Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, have heard support from Tennessee families across the state since November when they announced a proposal to repeal state and local taxes on unprepared food.

O. Lehman of Lancing, Tenn.

“Although I don’t share your views on most issues, I agree with you that the grocery tax needs to be repealed. Taxing people’s food is abhorrent! … I don’t believe that pushing for repeal of the food tax is a fool’s errand, I believe it’s right and just and representatives need to do what’s right and repeal it.”

S. Talley of Antioch, Tenn.

“The three-month grocery tax holiday really helped me. I bought groceries to last until January… Please continue to fight to eliminate $ taxes on groceries… You have my support and I will tell my family in Chattanooga to support you also.”

M. Smith of Hermitage, Tenn.

“Thank you for introducing the bill to eliminate the grocery tax. As you are no doubt aware, grocery taxes are ‘regressive’, i.e., the tax amount paid as a percentage of annual income goes up as incomes go down. Such taxes are fundamentally immoral, as the tax burden falls disproportionately on the poor. I plan to write my Tenn. House and Senate legislators to express my support for your bill.”

I. Mason of Kingston Springs, Tenn.

“I’d like to thank and cheer on the efforts of Tennessee State Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville, and Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, to eliminate the grocery sales tax and close the loopholes that allow corporations in Tennessee to do business without paying state excise tax. This kind of representation is needed. Tennessee has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, and unlike most states, also places a sales tax on food.”

Tennessee’s sales tax rate on food is 4% and local jurisdictions can add up to 2.75% in local sales taxes.

Under the proposal by Rep. Behn and Sen. Oliver, state and local governments would be prohibited from taxing groceries effective July 1. To offset any decrease to state and local revenue streams, the lawmakers will pair the grocery tax repeal with corporate tax reform that closes loopholes favored by billion-dollar corporations.

Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville: “Instead of focusing on a bipartisan solution to inflation, Gov. Lee announced he’s giving corporations yet another tax break despite wide support for eliminating the grocery tax. It’s time to shift the tax burden off of us and onto mega-corporations who don’t pay what they owe.”

Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville: “It is outrageous that in Tennessee some billion dollar corporations are paying a lower tax bill than a single mother who works two jobs. Working families and small businesses are the backbone of this economy and they deserve a legislature that works — as hard as they do — to lower costs and help them build a good life.”

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Tennessee Senate Democrats

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly