Higher tax for supermarket booze, advises think tank

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

A mess: changes to alcohol tax needed, says think tank
A mess: changes to alcohol tax needed, says think tank
Booze sold in the pub should be cheaper than that in the supermarket, a think tank has advised, suggesting a higher tax on alcohol for the off-trade.

Research from Social Market Foundation (SMF) said ‘pub relief’ would make drinking at home more expensive than in the pub.

The study commissioned by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) claimed a higher tax on supermarket drink could help cut problem drinking, if the likes of cider and wine were taxed by the unit.

Weaker products sold in the pub would face a lower tax, while higher ABV plonk from the supermarket would see a higher rate.

This backs concerns in the pub trade around cheaper alcohol sold in the supermarket, the potential negative health impacts it can pose to consumers and the issues it is causing the pub trade.

‘Alcohol tax is a mess’

Scott Corfe, SMF research director and author of the report, said: “The way we tax alcohol today is a mess.

“Inconsistent, irrational duty rates based on politics and special pleading mean drinks closely associated with serious medical and social harm are unjustifiably cheap.

“A consistent, well-planned duty regime could discourage the riskiest drinking, support the pub trade and reward manufacturers who reduce the strength of their products. Alcohol should be taxed on the basis of evidence, not politics.”

Katherine Severi, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies said: “This new report from SMF highlights the illogicality, loopholes and perverse incentives that pervade the way we tax alcohol.

“For too long, politicians have set alcohol duty with more concern for newspaper headlines than the health and welfare of the country.”

‘Alcohol taxes’

Severi continued: “We therefore welcome SMF’s proposal that alcohol taxes should be set on the basis of a rigorous independent evidence review every five to ten years.

“Post-Brexit, if the UK is no longer bound by EU Directives on alcohol taxation, the government should restructure the duty system to ensure that stronger products are taxed at a proportionately higher rate.

“At the same time, SMF demonstrate that Brexit should not be an excuse for inaction.

“Even under the current rules, the government can take a common-sense approach to taxing alcohol by ending the favourable treatment of cider.

“This would save lives and protect some of the most vulnerable groups in society.”

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