After finishing her meal at Sushi Go Round & Tapas in Chinatown, sharp-eyed Jessica Seidman noticed something amiss at the bottom of her receipt. Where sales tax is typically noted, Sushi Go Round listed a pair of mystifying line items: “DC Japanese Tax” and “DC Thai Tax.”
Does Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ latest international goodwill mission consist of ethnic-restaurant revenue sharing? Has the District taken its sister-city relationship with Bangkok to the next level?
“I’d never seen any sort of country-specific tax before,” Seidman, a Tenleytown resident, says. “My initial thought was that sushi…would have a special tax.”
Not a sushi tax, says Sushi Go Round President Somchai Phongs. Rather, he says, the East Asian references are little more than a particularly transparent way of keeping his books. Phongs also owns the Thai Chili restaurant in the same building, and the verbiage on the receipts helps him keep his tax records straight: Sushi Go Round customers get assessed the “Japanese Tax”; Thai Chili patrons get the “Thai Tax.”
“It’s for me to know,” he says. “Does it come from the Japanese restaurant or the Thai restaurant?” All the money—the standard 10 percent sales tax—goes to District coffers regardless whether it’s placed in the Japanese or Thai category, he says.
Diners get suspicious and ask him about it only “once in a blue moon,” he says. “Most of the time we have regulars, and they already know.”