Everytime I come back from Europe...

Old Mar 4th, 2005, 05:43 AM
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Everytime I come back from Europe...

I am completely incensed over the ridiculous restrictions and obscene taxes on liquor here. I get even more outraged when I hear it justified as "sin taxes." The notion that having a glass of wine or two with dinner is a sin is outrageous. It's just a tax grab by governments who manage to stifle protests at yet more tax increases by calling people who want a glass of wine sinners. Sure alcohol can be abused. But what can't. People who eat too many cheeseburgers probably cost society more but there isn't any cheesburger tax. (Ooops, maybe I shouldn't be giving the tax boys any ideas!)

I don't suppose that there is anything to be done about it, but that doesn't make it any the less odious.
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 05:58 AM
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Well, I'm not going to comment on the moral issue that 'some' in the US seem to have with alcohol, though I do find it bizarre from a European perspective, but here in the UK, alcohol is also heavily taxed. The reason they give for this, however, is not becasue it's a 'sin', but because it's seen as a luxury rather than a life-essential. You have the choice to buy or not, which seems fair enough to me. Rather have heavy tax on luxuries than food.

Our cigarettes carry even more extreme taxes - a pack now costs £5, but even as a smoker, I think it's a good thing. We pay for the National Health Service!
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 06:05 AM
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But Kate, wine IS a life essential LOL...isn't it?!
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 06:52 AM
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metellus, what you gain on the swing you lose on the roundabout ... from a Canadian perspective, I envy what the French pay for wine. However, I'd hate to pay their prices for either diesel or gasoline. They have simply chosen to tax something else.

Anselm
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 07:14 AM
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Tax on alcohol is certainly not just an American phenomenon. Last summer I visited Helsingor in Denmark, where I found the "Hamlet" castle almost as fascinating as the town, which was filled with liquor stores catering to Swedes filling their cars and vans with beer to bring back on the ferry to avoid Sweden's steep liquor prices. Since the castle was built in essence to extract tolls from Swedish voyagers centuries ago, I found it ironic that the town appears to hold the same mercantile position today.
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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I guess paying a sin tax in America on you bottle of wine, is better than giving most of your income to your European givernment with their outrageous income taxes, VAT taxes, etc so you can get "free" healthcare and wine on the cheap.

just my 2 pence
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Old Mar 4th, 2005, 07:28 AM
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"Sin taxes" don't actually tax sins. They tax things that have very inelastic demand (this means that even if the tax is high, you will buy it anyway).

It's not a tax on luxuries, there are plenty of different luxury goods to buy that are not taxed this way (like Prada clothes or Louis Vuitton purses).

If taxes were very high on cheeseburgers, people would just eat tacos instead.

If taxes on fancy shoes are high, people would buy scarves or purses instead.

If taxes are high on alcohol, people.....continue to drink alcohol. There is no real substitute.

Sorry to introduce some actual economics.

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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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" is not becasue it's a 'sin', but because it's seen as a luxury rather than a life-essential."

I don't buy this argument. Chocolate cake is not life essential. Neither are potato chips. But they are not taxed. There are very few things that you buy that are really necessities.

You can argue that gas taxes are higher in Europe. I don't see the point. I'm saying this: it's not just that the alcohol taxes are outrageous, it's that it is justified on a bogus moral ground. And the reason for this is that they can jack up the taxes at will without public complaint. Try raising gas, property or income taxes here and people are up in arms. So alcohol tax increases are nothing more than a cowardly way for governments to increase taxes without having to face public outcry against another tax increase.


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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 05:56 AM
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Actually, the very high French on tobacco has prompted large numbers of people to give it it. It also has signiflicanly increased the number of times a pedestrian may be asked if he or she has a cigarette.
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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Interesting, Dave; when I was in Paris last week a guy asked my husband for a cigarette, and I commented on how long it had been since I had seen anyone bum a cigarette. Sounds like in Paris it's an escalating phenomenon.
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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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When I was traveling in Europe on a research fellowship, I would supplement my meager stipend by loading up on all the duty-free goods I could import without tax, and barter them with the locals. I could get a good dinner (with wine) for two packs of Marlboros that cost me 50Ę on the plane going over.

Anybody done that lately?
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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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metellus, you are making a much ado for the wrong reason. It isn't the taxes. In 1949 the Federal Excise Tax on wine under 14% was 15 cents per wine gallon, in 2002 it was $1.07 and I don't think it has been raised since then. That's about 21.4 cents per bottle or 4 to 5 cents per glass. The average state excise tax is 78 cents per gallon which would add 3 or 4 cents per glass. You can find a listing by state at:
www.cspinet.org/booze/taxguide/StateRankLH.pdf

You may also find this quote from the Marin Institute interesting:
---------------------
Alcohol Excise Taxes

The Federal Government imposes volume taxes on distilled spirits, wine, and beer that are in addition to State alcohol taxes. Congress raises the taxes only rarely. FEDERAL EXCISE TAX POLICIES HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO A SIGNIFICANT DECLINE IN THE REAL PRICE OF ALCOHOL SINCE 1960. (My emphasis)
For instance, the Federal excise tax on beer amounts to about a nickel per drinkóless than seven percent of the average price of a six-pack. Even with a Federal tax increase in 1991, the average price of beer has fallen by more than 25 percent relative to the Consumer Price Index over the past five decades. Had the tax kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, today's $18 per-barrel tax would total approximately $61.60, or $1.05 per six-pack, more than two-and-one-half times the current rate.
-------------------

If there is a problem, it is because of the archaic rules which protect the importers and distributors from competition and it will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules in a case before it.
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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 12:20 PM
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Every time I come come back from Europe...

...I am amazed that when I unpack I realize I could have packed even lighter with no consequence. And I'm a pack-light NAZI.

...I am annoyed at the crappy public transportation in the USA.

...I am convinced we need to do much, much more to preserve our historic architecture in the USA.

...I am amazed that the vast majority of voters actually believe the prohibition of pot is a good thing.
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Old Mar 6th, 2005, 02:38 PM
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"...the vast majority of voters actually believe the prohibition of pot is a good thing..."

Not really. In Arizona, the people TWICE voted to decriminalize simple possession, and TWICE the kangaroo legislature overrode their wishes.

But I know what you mean
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