Sales tax for D.C. food trucks starts Monday

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Photo - Sabor’a Street food truck on the corner of 13th Street NW and K Streets NW in downtown D.C. (Examiner file photo)
Sabor’a Street food truck on the corner of 13th Street NW and K Streets NW in downtown D.C. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

That specialty ethnic dish you love from the food truck down the street? It might be pricier during Monday's lunch rush -- and every lunch rush in the future.

Monday will bring the advent of the District's new 10 percent tax on the food the mobile vendors sell. The rate is the same as the tax charged in brick-and-mortar restaurants, many of which argued that food trucks enjoyed a salesmanship advantage: a tax-free meal.

Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the D.C. Food Truck Association, welcomed the change.

"It is a good thing for food trucks to be able to serve as a means to provide additional revenue to the District," Ruddell-Tabisola said in a statement.

Though food trucks haven't been sending the District revenue through a sales tax, the vendors haven't been living a tax-free existence either. Before the new tax, food trucks paid the city a $1,500 flat rate annually.

In Franklin Square, one vendor said his prices would climb -- but he also said he'd add a little more food to the plate.

"I will definitely mark up the price, but I'll include more stuff in the combo," said Martinus Setiantoko during a break from the grill of his Indonesian food truck.

And though customers had mixed views about the tax, most said they didn't need to change their lunch habits.

"They shouldn't do it," Jeanette Turnga said of the tax as she picked up Korean food. "People are not going to come."

But Turnga said she'd still be a regular customer because of the "respect" vendors have for her and others.

Larry Matheson, a Ward 6 resident who works on 15th Street Northwest, said the tax seemed reasonable.

"It's the same tax as you pay at a restaurant," Matheson said. "It sounds like a good solution, a fair solution to everybody."

Matheson, who was waiting for an Afghan lunch, added he'd still pay because of the variety of noontime options.

"This is a convenient place to get a variety of foods that you might not otherwise be interested in," Matheson said. "If you took all of Adams Morgan and dehydrated it and shrunk it down, it'd be right here."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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