D.C. food truck owners object to sales-tax proposal

As my colleague Jonathan O’Connell reports today in Capital Business, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) is planning to introduce a measure that will required mobile food vendors to pay the same 10 percent sales tax that stationary purveyors pay. Carts and trucks currently pay only a flat $1,500 vending fee to the city.

This stands to be the legislative culmination of tensions that have risen in the last year or so as the city’s mobile food culture has expanded beyond the ubiquitous half-smoke stands. Brick-and-mortar food sellers, represented most vigorously by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, have pushed for tax parity for the carts and trucks. But the mobile vendors aren’t giving in quietly.

A letter sent to Evans today from the “newly-formed” D.C. Food Truck Association asks him to “pause before proposing” his sales tax bill, saying that while the group “is not opposed to a law that would require all street vendors to collect sales tax,” it is “opposed to legislation that is created in a vacuum without all stakeholders at the table.” The letter, signed by DCFTA Executive Director (and Curbside Cupcake proprietor) Kristi Whitfield, criticizes Evans for not consulting with vendors and asks him to “engage the food truck community before proceeding.”

The letter also notes that while the Evans bill implements a sales tax requirement, it does not eliminate the fee payment. Further, it points out some rather irrational licensing regulations — such as the fact that only an individual, not a corporation, can hold a vending license. Rather than simply apply the sales tax, Whitfield asks Evans to undertake a “holistic and comprehensive overhaul” of vending regulations.

Here’s the full letter:

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.


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