Are you looking for a little sugar rush today? You’re in luck: It’s National Doughnut Day. Now a national event, the first National Doughnut Day happened in Chicago in 1938. And it wasn’t dreamed up by bakers or marketers but by the Salvation Army as a fundraiser to commemorate the work of the “doughnut girls” or “donut lassies” who fed the treats to American soldiers during World War I (the “doughnut girls” returned to their baking duties during World War II.)
The Salvation Army provided support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France during World War I. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts located near the front lines where they delivered clothes and supplies to soldiers. Foodstuffs were limited on battlefields, but doughnuts were relatively easy to make since they were just sugar, water, flour, and lard. The doughnut girls fried doughnuts in the field, seven at a time, to save on resources. Eventually, Salvation Army’s Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance thought of frying the doughnuts inside of soldiers’ helmets as a space saver, sparking a tradition. The memory of the doughnut girls inspired National Doughnut Day, and it’s now a tradition on the first Friday of June to down a doughnut in honor of our troops.
Today some establishments will celebrate by giving away doughnuts. To kick things off, Entenmann’s and the Salvation Army will be delivering free donuts to more than 20,000 veterans all over the country. Click here to see a full list of delivery events by state.
And if you’re looking to grab some free doughnuts of your own, here are some spots to try on National Doughnut Day:
- Duck Donuts. Duck Donuts will be offering a FREE classic donut (bare, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar) at their Summer Beach Bash.
- Dunkin’ Donuts. Enjoy a FREE doughnut with any beverage purchase.
- Krispy Kreme. Get one FREE doughnut of your choice, no purchase necessary (Krispy Kreme claims they want to give away one million doughnuts today!).
- LaMar’s Donuts. Celebrate with a FREE donut. Any donut with a hole, no purchase necessary. Click on the link to print out your ticket.
- Paula’s Donuts. FREE donuts with any beverage purchase.
Related offers include:
- On-demand restaurant delivery apps Waitr and Bite Squad are making food delivery even sweeter with free delivery on National Donut Day, Friday, June 7. Customers can order from their favorite local restaurant (or donut shop, bakery) and get free delivery. Enter the promotional code “DONUTDAY” when ordering on the app or online at www.waitrapp.com or www.bitesquad.com.
(I’ll be updating the list throughout the day.)
When you stop by, be prepared to chat with your fellow doughnut lovers: According to data analysis from Womply, a small business software company, National Donut Day is the eighth-best sales day of the year for local bakeries across the country—when consumer spending jumps 57% compared to a typical day. That’s because National Doughnut Day brings in more customers. Womply found that National Doughnut Day is big for bakeries because more people are buying donuts, not because people are buying more donuts.
Of course, you can’t eat just one doughnut, right? Americans eat about 10 billion donuts each year—that’s about 31 donuts per person per year, or 2.58 donuts per person each month! If you decide to pick up a dozen (or 2.58) extra doughnuts while you’re out, whether you will pay sales tax on those doughnuts depends on what you’re going to do with them, or at least what your state’s revenue department anticipates you’d do with them.
In North Carolina, where Krispy Kreme first opened its doors in 1937, prepared foods “other than bakery items sold without eating utensils by an artisan bakery” are subject to state and local sales tax. And yes, bakery items specifically includes doughnuts, though the NC legislature has come down solidly in favor of the alternative spelling “donut.”
Similarly, in Washington State, sweet bakery items—which do include doughnuts—are exempt from retail sales tax, unless the seller provides the buyer with an eating utensil or the 75% rule applies. Under the 75% rule, if prepared food sales at an establishment exceed 75% of total food sales, the merchant is required to collect sales tax on all food sales, with the exception of sales of packages containing four or more servings. Since most folks aren’t ready to do that kind of math before their morning coffee, just know that the legislature suggests that cafes and bakeries routinely qualify under the rule.
In Richmond, Virginia, whether a sale is taxable depends on how many doughnuts you order. If you order between one and five doughnuts, that’s considered a meal and is taxable. If you order six or more doughnuts, it’s assumed that you are not eating them as a single serving (apparently, no one on City Council was ever a college freshman). There’s a similar rule in Wyoming—the multiple serving exception—which exempts an item containing four or more servings packaged and sold as one item, like a dozen donuts (since you would never, ever eat them all at once, right?).
In New York, food is generally exempt from sales tax “unless sold under the conditions … that would render them taxable.” Those conditions include heated food, food sold for consumption on the premises, or food which “has been prepared by the seller and is ready to be eaten, whether for on-premises or off-premises consumption.”
When it comes to doughnuts, the warm food rule does have some holes: In Missouri, if a grocery store sells doughnuts in its bakery department, those are taxed at a reduced rate “even though these donuts may still be warm from baking.”
It’s not just the taxability of doughnuts that can be confusing. From chocolate fondue to pumpkins, companies and tax authorities have long disagreed about the taxable nature of food items. And if the pros can’t easily determine taxability, how are consumers expected to know? Fortunately, when it comes to doughnuts, there is one thing we can all agree on: They’re delicious.