Do Soda Taxes Actually Work As Intended?

Philadelphia and Seattle are two cities noted for their experiment with a high tax on sugary beverages; notably soda. These cities are getting a lot of attention in the national media and the jury is still out on how effective the tax will be. Soda taxes, however, are nothing new. And while Seattle and Philly get the attention, they aren’t the only city that has flirted with this measure.

Chicago’s brief flirtation with a soda tax was over almost as quickly as it began. Two months into its inception, Cook County (where Chicago is located) voted to repeal the tax by a vote of 15-1.

The tax of 1 cent per ounce on sugary beverages was, at the time the largest soda tax in the country. The tax was pitched as a means to plug a growing deficit in the city budget. Public health was also a consideration.

Soda companies and health advocates engaged in a multi-million dollar, months-long battle over the legislation. In the end, Big Soda came out on top. However, the public at large was also in favor of the repeal.

“I have heard from the people of my district, overwhelmingly,” said Commissioner John Daley.

Highly visible public protests, millions spent by soda and beverage companies, and even a lawsuit ultimately forced the county to reconsider.

But Does It Work?

Despite claims that repealing the tax would cause public health to suffer, that hasn’t been shown to be the case. Similarly, Philadelphia’s soda tax was has been in effect for over a year now has failed to generate the revenue that was anticipated. 

“Does it work” depends on what soda taxes are meant to achieve. Public health? No tax has been in effect long enough to truly measure whether that is the case. However, citizens in cities that have passed soda taxes have taken to crossing county or city lines to shop where the tax does not exist.

Revenue generation has been slow, and many businesses oppose the soda taxes, or look for ways to circumvent it.

The truth is that only time will tell if any of the soda taxes achieve a desired result. One thing is clear, however, and that is that people generally do not like paying new taxes if they can help it.

“It doesn’t matter if you tax tea or sugar,” said Commissioner Richard Boykin, who represents the West Side of Chicago. “Eventually people say ‘enough is enough.’”

Soda Taxes Got You Down?

Taxes of all kinds, whether they’re soda taxes, property taxes, or income taxes are all factors to consider when deciding where to move. If you’re looking to get out of your city and try your luck elsewhere; it helps to know what to expect.

City vs City is a powerful cost of living calculator that can help show you what to expect. We calculate after-tax income, expenses, and all major state and local taxes. We compare findings at the zip-code level to determine your true cost of living.

Which city stacks up best? Download the City vs City app to find out!