South Dakota's unworkable food tax refund program was finally ended by the South Dakota legislature. Its remaining funds are being given to emergency food providers in the state. That money, over $800,000, was designated for food, and now it will really reach people with food.
The program was returning to the people less than 1/10 of 1% of what South Dakota households were paying in food tax. [FY 2012]
It's not that people don't need the tax off food. They do. But Rebate-type programs for low-income people are inherently ineffective. This was already known from years of South Dakota's tax refund program for low-income senior citizens and citizens with disabilities.
No matter how simple the paperwork seems, low-income people were missed for a multitude of reasons:
They (and now also middle-income families) have many stresses and time-consuming issues.
They lack financial advisors keeping them signed up for available benefits.
Many don't find out, or think it is not for them. Often their income fluctuates.
Some are embarrassed to seek help, even help for which they rightly qualify.
Many are ill, mentally incapable, emotionally distraught, or simply dealing with the crises that come more often the lower the income.
Juggling several jobs and children's needs, while trying to manage on too little income, can be overwhelming enough to miss out on much of what life has to offer.
So far, there is no way to accomplish effective food tax relief -- unless it is automatic. What would be automatic?: Cutting the tax itself. Then the benefit would miss no one. Even cutting the 6% food tax down to 5.5% would provide more benefit to low-income people, as a group, than the refund program did.