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The war against beer

The one good thing about the bit of freelance advertising work I did recently was the opportunity to get my hands dirty in some interesting data.  Research company NVision always pull together numbers in a really interesting way and make some powerful observations – such as this one:

Over the last thirty years, beer duty has increased almost fourfold.  It has increased far, far more than duty on wine or spirits.

Perversely, the less alcoholic a drink is, the more it gets taxed.

Proof that successive governments of any party are biased against beer.

They see duty purely as source of revenue.  Taxation policy has nothing to do whatsoever with trying to curb binge drinking.

And alcohol taxes are regressive – this is an oversimplification, but what’s undeniable here is that poorer people over time pay a constantly increasing proportion of total alcohol taxation.



Rob Nicholson

Our local new conservative MP is a Mormon. He attended the Macclesfield beer festival on the Saturday after the election and drank water…

He replaces that old beer drinking rascal Mr Winterton. Say what you like about Nick, he was always a staucnh supporter of beer & pubs in the area.

The Beer Nut

What interests me most about the spurious public health argument is that, over the last 50 or 60 years, countries which have pursued restrictive policies on access and price (Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Norway) have seen increases in alcohol consumption levels, while those that have liberalised alcohol (Italy, France, Spain) have seen it drop.

Andy Gardiner

To be fair, your graph seems to show only that duty on beer "increased far, far more than duty on wine or spirits" during the period 1980 – 1985. Since then, increases are broadly equal.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a paper in 1999 advising the Treasury on the effects of raising and lowering duty on wine, beer and spirits. http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn4.pdf

It concluded that spirit duty was at its maximum but that there was potential on wine and beer. Your graph shows that they listened.

It seems there are two ways to change the Treasury's mind – mass rioting or mass bootlegging. Or both.


"Over the last thirty years, beer duty has increased almost fourfold"

Is this in absolute or real (i.e. inflation adjusted) terms? If the former, it would be interesting to know the latter.


Here in Belgium, the beer market is very… well, Belgian… You cannot find a foreign beer, even if you are looking for it.
Maybe it's also the custom's fault??? That I really don't know…


There was a Treasury analysis of alcohol duty written a few years ago – I expect it can be found on the web if you go looking. The upshot was that only increasing beer tax results in increased revenue, increasing the other tax rates just results in drinkers switching their drinking habits. That explains the constant (relative) tax hikes for beer. Of course, the camel's back will break eventually…


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