Seattle soda tax poses a latte questions about coffee drinks | KUOW News and Information

Seattle soda tax poses a latte questions about coffee drinks

Jun 8, 2017

Even though it’s been days since Seattle officials passed the new soda tax, it’s unclear what specific drinks will be affected.

Specifically, lattes.


This law taxes the distribution of drinks like soda pop, sports drinks, energy drinks and sweetened ice teas, to name a few.

Exempt drinks include 100 percent juices with no added sweeteners and alcoholic beverages.

But what about lattes?

The legislation defines any drink where milk is the primary ingredient as exempt from the tax. So, lattes themselves are not on the list.

“However, there could be other coffee-based drinks that are heavily sugared that would fall into the definition and that’s part of our process of working with taxpayers to understand what those drinks are,”  said city finance director Glenn Lee, who is responsible for managing the taxes the city levies.

There’s still a latte confusion on coffee-based drinks.

Even people like Joseph Cunha, the city’s tax administrator, don’t have all the answers.

“We don’t have enough facts yet on how all of the drinks are made,” Cunha said. “You know, what are the ingredients in the drinks? So, we haven’t gotten far enough along to really start figuring out in depth what all is going to be included.”

He added, “What we’re looking at is are there syrups that are going to be distributed to the coffee house, which is then going to be used to make a beverage?”

Another city official said sugar sweetened syrups that go into coffee drinks will be taxed.

This law goes into effect in January 2018.

How it’ll be implemented will be determined by officials over the next few months.