Alcohol duty judged 'too low' according to report

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

'Lost enjoyment' of sensible drinkers would be made up for by befits of increased duty according to IAS
'Lost enjoyment' of sensible drinkers would be made up for by befits of increased duty according to IAS

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A new report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has claimed alcohol taxes are too low – despite UK drinkers paying 52p per pint in duty, one of the highest rates in Europe.

The IAS argues the Government has consistently claimed alcohol harm costs society £21bn in England and Wales when the combined cost of crime, healthcare and lost economic output are added together, but alcohol duty only generates £9bn, less than half of the total required.

'Duty cuts cost Treasury £1bn'

Higher alcohol taxes are justified on the basis of the harm drinking causes to wider society according to the Dereliction of Duty: Are UK alcohol taxes too low? report​, which added the "lost enjoyment suffered by moderate drinkers" would be dwarfed by the benefits of increasing duty.

The report made no reference to the impact of higher duty on the pub and beer industry.

Policy analyst and report author Aveek Bhattacharya said: "Government claims that alcohol costs society £21bn but fails to acknowledge that duty rates should reflect this social cost. As long as it continues to accept this figure, it is implausible for the Government to maintain that current levels of alcohol taxes are adequate.

"What this means is that duty should rise, not just for the sake of excessive drinkers themselves or for the Government coffers, but for the sake of all of us in society. Excessive drinking leads to crime, violence, healthcare costs and a weaker economy, which affect everybody.

"The context of tight Government finances only strengthens the urgency of the case – recent duty cuts have cost the Treasury more than £1bn. We call upon the Chancellor to address the burden of alcohol on wider society and to raise alcohol duty next Wednesday."

Campaigners ramp up duty cut bid

Campaigners are making the final push for a cut to beer duty in next week's Budget, with latest research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (commissioned by the Campaign for Real Ale) showing a decision not to cut taxes would lead to pub closures, reduced investment and 1.3 billion fewer pints sold by 2020. 

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