The Sliced Bagel Tax: This is Actually A Thing?

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Yeah, sure, you've heard New York is cash-strapped and needs to tax whatever they can in order to drum up some coin for the state. But how strapped? Try this: There's a tax on bagels. Not just bagels, but sliced bagels. And unsliced bagels are untaxed bagels. Unless you eat the bagel in the store of the guy who sold you the bagel, in which case, it's a taxable bagel. And thus, basically everyone in New York who has sold you a sliced bagel is probably a tax criminal.

This is not a joke. The New York Post sent two reporters out -- two! -- to work on The Sliced Bagel Tax story:

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance considers sliced bagels -- even sans cream cheese or any other topping -- as prepared food. Prepared food, like deli sandwiches, is subject to an 8.875 percent tax. But a whole bagel, unsliced, is not considered prepared, and is therefore unaffected by the tax. Confusing things further, even if a bagel is served unsliced, food vendors are still supposed to whack a tax on it if the customer eats it in the store. And while none of the bagel sellers were enforcing the wacky slice-tax rule, they might have to start soon.

Jacob Gershman at the Wall Street Journal talked to a Bruegger's Bagels franchise owner who the state busted for not paying taxes on sliced bagels:

Kenneth Greene, the owner of 33 Bruegger's Bagel franchises throughout New York, says the state demanded that he start charging taxes on all bagels, except for those that remain intact and are consumed off premises, and forced him to pay a "significant" sum in taxes that the state estimated he owed. Mr. Greene says the extra charge, about eight cents a bagel, depending on the local rate, filled his customers with boiling rage. "They felt we were nickel-and-diming them. They thought we were charging them to slice a bagel," he said.

What the fuck, New York legislature? The only benefit of this is that a bunch of beat reporters get to go out and eat bagels, resulting in wonderful, hard-hitting investigative reporting sentences like this:

At the famed Murray's Bagels in Chelsea, the cashier didn't tax a $1 sliced cinnamon raisin bagel. However, he did hit a sesame bagel with scallion cream cheese with a tax.

But extra cash out of our pockets for SLICED BAGELS. The solution, I guess, is to order a bagel, with cream cheese, buy a toaster, and DIY that shit. Or just encourage your local bagel vendor to be a tax criminal (at your own risk, which we're not encouraging or suggested, just kind of pointing out a possibility, for the record). But yeah, this absolutely seems like one of those blithe things the New York state legislature does in order to breed such disdain for them that we completely otherwise ignore them and assume broad incompetence if not contempt for their constituents. That's the only explanation quickly at hand.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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