View Mobile Site

Is the next tax bite on processed pet food?

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED January 12, 2014 10:24 p.m.

The Mexican government has slapped a 16 percent luxury tax on all processed dog food.

Big deal, you say. That’s a problem for citizens of Mexico and not you.

You’re forgetting one thing. All bad ideas eventually make it to the California Legislature.

Mexico’s government views pets “as a luxury and not a basic need.”

Given that Mexico has an estimated 14 million dogs and cats kept as pets with owners spending $2.2 billion a year on processed pet food, the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto has struck the bonanza. Assuming sales stay steady the tax will generate $352 million for Mexico’s government.

The worst thing that could happen for American pet owners is for pet food sales not to drop in Mexico as the result of the tax.

That would only embolden lawmakers in this country to try and tax pet food to feed their favorite pork projects.

Americans spend $20 billion a year on processed pet food.

A 16 percent luxury tax in the United States would generate $3.2 billion. If California’s consumption of pet food is proportional to its population, the Golden State could raise in $340 million pet food luxury taxes each year.

You can only imagine the justification California politicians would use to impose such a tax.

•Pets are getting fatter so therefore they are less healthy so in order to keep veterinarian bills down we need to tax pet food.

•Dogs and cats pollute the environment when they process pet food so the tax is needed to penalize owners for their pets’ discharge pollution.

•There are feral cats and wild packs of dogs not getting enough to eat. The tax will create a new government bureaucracy to feed the underprivileged animals although most of the money will be siphoned off for other purposes.

•Dogs and cats eat better that some poor people which is sinful so therefore a sin tax is justified.

Mexico’s targeting a specific item — in this case pet food — is the direct result of politicians not having a spine.

The government in Mexico needed/wanted more money. So instead of seeking an increased sales tax on all retail items except perhaps food meant for human consumption they opted to take the textbook divide and conquer approach.

Seeking a straightforward tax is dangerous. It taxes everyone so the odds are great everyone will oppose the tax to some degree. But if you cull the herd of taxpayers you stand a better chance.

By targeting pet owners only you get non-pet owners who oppose paying more taxes personally but who want more government services justifying the move. They rationalize there are a lot of irresponsible cat owners that let their pet felines roam the neighborhood turning yards into outdoor kitty litter boxes, so therefore they have little or no empathy for them. The same is true of dog owners who walk their pets off leash or else watch then do their duty on the sidewalk or on your lawn and then leave it there as their gift to you.

It’s the same type of rational that many of us justify ever larger sin taxes on smokers. If you don’t smoke and secondhand smoke irritates you the odds are you aren’t going to stridently oppose hiking taxes on cigarettes.

The same is true of soda taxes. Sodas aren’t healthy and there is an obesity problem in this country so maybe taxing soda will make those people stop their unhealthy habits.

The trick of course is to either pick a specific group you want to tax that is in the minority, not a politically correct group or that you can villianize for behavior considered less than healthy.

That is why you don’t see anyone proposing a luxury tax on lattes or on buyers of Google Glasses.

As a politician you want to impose taxes that enough of your constituents can support so they feel good penalizing others via the taxman. And if you do it right, your constituents can feel good imposing a tax that might just make the poor slob the government is taxing for a specific type of consumption a bit healthier if they have to cutback either smoking, chugging soda or reduce the number of pets they have in order to afford to pay the luxury and/or sin tax.

It’s why you need to understand the real danger of sin or luxury taxes. If you don’t stand up against them when they don’t apply to you, sooner or later the government will be taxing your “sin.”

It’s no different than those who stood by and did nothing while the Nazis moved against the Jews.

Many who opted to ignore the injustice because it wasn’t targeted at them eventually were targeted by the Nazis as well.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...