Defense Commissary Agency news release
FORT LEE, Va. – The commissary surcharge – the 5 percent added to every customer’s bill – is not a tax. That’s just one of several facts about the surcharge that even some of the savviest commissary customers are sometimes surprised to learn.
“Some people erroneously call the surcharge a tax, but this generalization is inaccurate and misses the point,” said Defense Commissary Agency Historian Dr. Pete Skirbunt. “A tax could be spent on any of multiple government programs or projects with no way of telling which ones. Commissary surcharge dollars, however, may only be spent on building, modernizing and maintaining commissary facilities and store equipment.”
Examples of surcharge spending include the new commissaries nearing completion at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida – all paid for with surcharge dollars. The grand opening of the $26 million Spangdahlem commissary is set for May, the $36 million Jacksonville commissary grand opening is expected later this summer, and the $38 million Fort Belvoir commissary is expected to open early next year.
“People are surprised to learn that the surcharge first appeared in 1879, and its history features various applications and rates through the years leading up to 1983 when it was set at 5 percent, and hasn’t changed since,” Skirbunt said.
Here are some surcharge facts provided as DeCA prepares to observe two anniversaries: the 25th anniversary of the agency officially standing up October 1, 1991; and 150th anniversary of the modern commissary benefit, which began July 1, 1867, with the at-cost sale of food to enlisted men and officers at posts across the country. Between then and now, there’s plenty of surcharge history:
“Commissaries are an excellent deal for customers due to the high level of savings the stores provide because we sell at cost plus the surcharge,” Skirbunt said. “For our customers, the surcharge enhances the commissary benefit by helping to modernize, improve and maintain their stores.”