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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Opposition Forms Against Dietary Supplements Tax

A group of physicians and health professionals are expressing their opposition to a proposed tax on dietary supplements.

When the House passed its $26 million budget last month, it proposed the tax, which would raise $3.1 million in 2014. Now, a diverse coalition is trying reverse the proposal. The coalition includes the Vermont Nurse Practitioners Association, the Vermont Psychological Association, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Hunger Mountain Co-op.

Dr. Bernie Noe, a naturopathic physician, says lifting the state’s 6 percent sales tax exemption on dietary supplements such as vitamins, fibers and folic acids would undermine certain health care efforts in Vermont.

“Any physician in the United States will tell you that pregnant women or women who are attempting to become pregnant should take folic acid to avoid birth defects,” Noe said on Thursday. “Under this proposed tax, that folic acid will be taxed.”

Noe and other physicians say the dietary supplement tax would discourage people from taking proactive, preventive health measures. “And that is the last thing that I believe we want to do,” Noe said.

But Representative Janet Ancel, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, disagrees. Ancel says discarding the sales tax exemption on dietary supplements, candy and soda would raise much-needed revenue to close the state’s budget gap.

“We have an exemption for food, and so it was really a question of whether dietary supplements are really food,” Ancel said. “Our committee came down on the side of saying that they’re not.”

The fight over dietary supplement taxes is far from over, though, as the Senate Finance Committee continues to consider the House package. And Governor Peter Shumlin is opposed to any new broad based taxes.