There's a new tax in Kansas that, in Miguel Raymundo's view, harms local business.
Raymundo manages “The Spot," a “Vape Shop” on East First Street. The business specilaizes in electronic cigarettes.
The tax was passed in 2015, a 20 cents per milliliter of "consumable material." According to watchdog.org, the tax led prices on the material to go from around $10 per bottle in Topeka to $16.60. The increase, according to Raymundo, in his shop was similar. The same size bottle now costs $16.99.
“I think people will, possibly, start making their own e-liquids and stop coming to the shop because they don't want to pay that ridiculous amount of tax,” Raymundo said
There are recipes for making “e-liquids” online — and each starts with a warning: wear protective gear. Basic recipes include diluted nicotine, flavoring and propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin.
The tax is being fought, with a group representing electronic cigarette retailers in Kansas fighting to prevent the state from enforcing a new tax on vaping fluid. According to the Associated Press, there was testimony this week in the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
A lobbyist for the Kansas Vapers Association argued during the committee meeting that the bill imposing the new tax on e-cigarettes was drafted poorly and made the original intent unclear.
"You never had a hearing, you didn't follow your own rules, it was plugged into the (conference committee) bill at the end of the session, and that's why you need to look at this before these rules become effective in March," lobbyist Tuck Duncan told the committee.
Duncan told the panel that confusion lies with the phrase "consumable material." While the Department of Revenue interpreted the phrase to mean total fluid volume used in the e-cigarettes, the Kansas Vapers Association claims it should apply solely to the volume of nicotine and not the water and other chemicals included in vaping fluid.
Duncan said the difference is significant because the tax on one e-cigarette would be roughly the same amount as the item's price itself. But other tobacco-related taxes are based on total volume of the products instead of solely nicotine content.
In December, as the deadline to implement the tax was set to expire, the revenue department proposed temporary rules that were eventually rejected by the state board because the department did not meet the requirements necessary to justify making temporary rules. This means that although the tax officially went into effect Jan. 1, there are currently no permanent rules to be enforced on retailers.
Raymundo said The Spot is collecting the tax, even in the face of now enforcement mechanisms, permanent rules and possible lobbying at the state level by the Kansas Vapers Association.
“I understand where (the state) is coming from,” Raymundo said. “I would like a more reasonable proposition, not 20 cents a milliliter. That is pretty steep.”
A public hearing on the proposed rule is slated for March.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.