2.5% Sales Tax Rate for Food and Personal Hygiene Products

Sales of food for home consumption are taxed at the reduced rate of 2.5% throughout Virginia. Beginning January 1, 2020, certain essential personal hygiene products will also be taxed at the lower rate.

What qualifies as food for home consumption?

Most staple grocery items and cold prepared foods packaged for home consumption qualify for the reduced sales tax rate.

Items that don’t qualify for the reduced rate include:

  • alcoholic beverages;
  • tobacco;
  • prepared hot foods packaged for immediate consumption on or off premises;
  • seeds and plants used to grow food for home consumption.

Certain types of vendors are presumed to be selling food for immediate consumption, and are not allowed to charge the reduced rate. These include:

  • caterers;
  • concession vendors;
  • entertainment facilities (theme parks, stadiums, etc.);
  • fair and carnival vendors;
  • gift shops;
  • hamburger and hot dog stands;
  • honor snack vendors;
  • ice cream stands and trucks;
  • mobile food vendors;
  • movie theaters;
  • newsstands;
  • vending machine vendors.

Any retail establishment whose sales of food for immediate consumption constitutes 80% or more of their total sales also may not charge the reduced rate. (A business that also sells motor fuels should include motor fuel sales when determining if they meet the 80% rule.)

For more information on the reduced tax on food for home consumption, including detailed lists of eligible foods, please see Tax Bulletin 5-78.

What qualifies as an essential personal hygiene product?

Essential personal hygiene products that qualify for the reduced tax rate as of January 1, 2020 include:

Nondurable incontinence products:

  • diapers;
  • disposable undergarments;
  • pads designed to protect undergarments;
  • bed sheets;
  • pads designed to protect bed sheets and mattresses;
  • incontinence products designed to be inserted in the body

Feminine hygiene products:

  • sanitary napkins;
  • sanitary towels;
  • tampons;
  • menstrual sponges;
  • menstrual cloths and pads;
  • menstrual cups;
  • pantyliners;
  • period panties;
  • other products used to absorb or contain menstrual flow

For more information on the reduced rate for essential personal hygiene products, please see Tax Bulletin 19-8.

Filing and paying

File and pay the tax on these items on your regular sales tax return.