Philadelphia’s Soda Tax: A Violation of the Uniformity Clause
By Richard J. Lechette [PDF]

The Pennsylvania Constitution contains an amendment known as the Uniformity of Taxation Clause (Uniformity Clause). It requires all taxes enacted in Pennsylvania to be uniform within the class—the group of people or things with common characteristics—being taxed. In 2016, the Philadelphia City Council enacted the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax (Soda Tax). The Soda Tax imposes a 1.5-cent tax per fluid ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage, to be paid by the distributors of these beverages.

This Comment argues that in view of both constitutional and common law, Philadelphia’s Soda Tax violates the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. It violates this provision because the tax applies an unequal burden on the taxpayers who distribute sugary beverages at varying market values. An argument is presented for an alternative system of taxation that provides a framework to render the Soda Tax constitutional.

Richard Lechette is a J.D. Candidate at Temple University Beasley School of Law, Class of 2018.