Why Booze Is Barely Taxed

Photo: Clock (CC)

Photo: Clock (CC)

Now you might think that’s a crazy headline, but as Frank Bruni points out in the New York Times, “Congress last revised excise taxes on distilled spirits in 1991, [and] the real value of those taxes has declined more than 35 percent”! (Disinfonauts outside the US, let us know how alcohol is taxed in your country)

… excise taxes on alcohol have gone down over the last few decades, when adjusted for inflation and measured in terms of the percentage they represent of the wholesale and retail price of a bottle or a can. The federal government and many states long ago set those levies in terms of a certain dollar amount per gallon — and then didn’t tweak them much as the cost of living went up.

Because Congress last revised excise taxes on distilled spirits in 1991, the real value of those taxes has declined more than 35 percent, said Alexander Wagenaar, a professor at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine who specializes in alcohol research.

In several states, the situation is even more absurd. According to a national roundup done by Alcohol Justice, an industry watchdog group, Wyoming hasn’t raised the excise tax on beer, which is two cents per gallon, since 1935.

Although some states have increased the sales taxes on alcohol over the last few years, they’ve typically done so in search of badly needed revenue and in the hope that it won’t dampen consumption — not as a public health measure aimed at reducing drinking.

“It’s amazing,” Wagenaar said. “There are scientists and epidemiologists counting all the bodies from alcohol-related problems, but only a few of them are looking at tax rates.”

And while some states restrict the marketing and promotion of alcohol, the overall advertising climate remains permissive enough that between 2001 and 2009, the average number of commercials for alcohol seen yearly by a teenager who regularly watched television rose to 366 from 217, according to a study for the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins…

[continues in the New York Times]


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11 Comments on "Why Booze Is Barely Taxed"

  1. Xepheraxepher | Feb 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    And yet, even with the exorbitant taxes they are putting on marijuana where it has been state legalized for medical use, they STILL are trying to make it illegal again. The message the government is sending about these 2 drugs seems to be that it is better to die of alcohol poisoning then live, smoking a joint….

  2. Alcohol taxes are just another way to take more money from the poor and middle class and give that money to soulless government contractor types, or jails.

  3. Not in Michigan.  State alcohol taxes here are outrageous.  A handle of Johnny Walker Red is $50 here.  In CA it was $25.

  4. Mamagriff50 | Feb 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm |

    Ohio taxes the hell out of alcohol….I read the article and your title is misleading. nowhere do you explain why congress hasn’t raised taxes on alcohol.     WTF

  5. In Poland we have 52,2% + 18% value added tax (VAT)… so over 70% of the price are taxes. Half liter, 40% vol is around 19 PLN and only 5,6 PLN of it are production and distribution cost. It’s a lot but from what I’ve heard in Sweden it’s much worse.

  6. This whole article is misleading, taxs are payed out the ass to make alcohol or even a craft brewed beer. Just recently the AHA lobbied for craft brewers and won to get taxs reduced since laws that were written in the 70’s that specifically applied to macro brewers was still applied to smaller establishments. So if anything they’ve been paying more for 30 plus years…

    Of course I’m talking about a micro brewery/distillery, which is part of this discussion.. It’s no surprise really the good ol boy macro swill which is now owned by a foreign company, INbev(which includes distribution of many micros) keeps it’s cost down..drink up!

  7. The alcohol tax in New Zealand is 10% on beer (average price for a dozen beer is $15-25), 15% wine (Bottle/cask can be $10+) and 38% on spirits ($30+).

  8. Butter Knife | Feb 20, 2012 at 5:10 am |

    So the taxes are “low” because the government has not elected to use tax code  for social engineering?

    I’m not sure this counts as a problem.

  9. NotTrollin | Feb 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

    Could they please just average it out with the cigarette tax so I can continue to kill myself in an affordable fashion?

  10. Could it be that alcohol numbs the mind and keeps the masses content not to protest and riot?  If protest become excessive, might they then legalize marijuana on the federal level to quell the angry crowds?  Even resorting to stronger narcotics in the future when scenario calls for it?

    Just a thought……..

  11. Duty on alcohol in the UK is not at a percentage, but at a fixed amount.
    £5.50 for a 70cl bottle of 40% spirits.
    £1.25 for a 70cl bottle of 11.5% wine.
    £1.65 for a 70cl bottle of sparkling wine.
    £0.38 for a pint (568ml) of 5% beer / lager (and I think the same for 8% cider).
    Then there’s VAT at 17.5%.A cheap bottle (70cl) rum will set you back around £12 and a decent one £18.
    I couldn’t comment on the costs of the others, I only drink rum 🙂

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