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Bloomberg taking effort to tax sugary drinks nationwide

Watch out, West Coast. Michael Bloomberg has you in his anti-sugar sights.

Cokes in our pantryClassic and Cherry Cokes in our pantry. Photo by Kay Bell.

The former New York City mayor was a major financial backer of Philadelphia's beverage tax, providing around $1.6 million in support of the measure. The Philly city council handily approved the 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-added and artificially sweetened soft drinks on June 16

As I noted in my Bankrate Taxes Blog post on the day of the vote, the tax campaign was notable for the admission by Philadelphia lawmakers that revenue, not public health, was the prime reason for the new levy. It is projected to raise $91 million a year.

Billionaire's health crusade: Bloomberg, however, remains committed to limiting soft drink consumption for health reasons.

The media mogul and many medical experts see the drinks as prime contributors to America's obesity epidemic and increasing cases of diabetes. 

As the Big Apple's mayor, Bloomberg supported a state-level soda tax, wanted to prevent residents from buying sodas with food stamps and tried to limit the size of sugary beverages. The measures failed and Bloomberg caught flak for what opponents decried as "nanny state" initiatives.

Western efforts eyed: But emboldened by the vote in the City of Brotherly Love, the largest city (so far) to tax sodas, Bloomberg is taking his anti-sugar crusade on the road. Specifically, he's heading west.

Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Bloomberg, says the billionaire will support drink tax measures in San Francisco and Oakland, California this year. He also may support soda tax drives in 2017 in Seattle and Oregon's Multnomah County, where Portland is located.

And he just might have some hope for his crusade out there.

In 2014, Berkeley, California, became the first U.S. city to tax sugary beverages.

"If Berkeley was a tremor, Philadelphia is an earthquake, and we expect there will be more earthquakes going forward," says Wolfson.

But Bloomberg is not abandoning the Eastern Seaboard.

The American Beverage Association says it will sue Philadelphia to stop the soft drink tax. Wolfson did not rule out the possibility that Bloomberg would contribute to the city's defense of such a suit.

Bankrate Taxes Blog logoDelayed refunds in 2017: In addition to writing about Philly's soda tax last week at my other tax blog, I also warned that some tax refunds in 2017 will be delayed.

The tax extenders bill enacted at the end of last year (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes, or PATH Act) included a provision mandating extra checks of returns claiming the Earned Income and/or additional child tax credits.

These tax breaks, designed to help lower-income workers, have helped put added money in the hands of millions of filers. But they also are a source of tax fraud.

The hope is that the new law, which prohibits the Internal Revenue Service from issuing any refunds in connection with the EITC and additional child tax credit before Feb. 15, will give tax agency more time to double check and verify claims.

If you plan to claim either of these refundable tax credits next filing season, budget accordingly.

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