Alcohol taxation

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Spirits shelf in a German supermarket.

In many countries, different alcoholic beverages are subject to separate taxation. While this used to be mainly for fiscal reasons, since the 19th century alcohol taxation has also been justified with health policy arguments. Often, the taxation of distilled water and that of fermented drinks (especially beer) have historically developed separately.


Since the early modern period there have been isolated taxes and duties on alcoholic products, for example from 1509 from Nordhausen and from 1660 from England . Since the 19th century there has been a more systematic taxation of alcoholic beverages.


Since 1919, the taxation of spirits was carried out by the spirits monopoly , which was exercised by the Reich monopoly administration and after the Second World War by the federal monopoly administration for spirits , until it was abolished on December 31, 2017 and replaced by the alcohol tax on January 1, 2018 . The income from the spirits tax in Germany in 2013 amounted to 2.1 billion euros.

Since January 1, 2018, the spirits tax is no longer treated separately under tax law, but is part of the alcohol tax. In addition to the alcohol tax, there is also the sparkling wine tax , the beer tax , the intermediate product control and alcopops Expensive . The former was introduced in 1902 to finance the imperial navy and is still in use today.


In Austria , spirits, beer and intermediate products are taxed. There is also a sparkling wine tax . Until the end of 2004 this was usually 1.44 euros per liter, was abolished in 2004 and reintroduced in 2014 at 1.00 euros per liter of sparkling wine. Since June 2020, a tax rate of 0 euros per hectolitre of sparkling wine has been in effect according to Section 3 SWStG 1995. Sparkling wine within the meaning of this federal law is all drinks that are contained in bottles with sparkling wine stoppers that are attached by a special holding device or that have an overpressure of 3 bar or more at +20 ° C due to dissolved carbon dioxide.


After the Federal Constitution of 1874 introduced freedom of trade and industry nationwide and thus the previous restrictions and taxation on alcohol production and the sale and serving of alcohol ceased to exist, consumption rose rapidly. In particular, potato schnapps served as a narcotic and food substitute for the poorer classes. In order to counter this potato schnapps pest, the first alcohol law was passed in 1887, which initially only regulated the production of potato schnapps. As a result, alcohol consumption also fell massively. After fruit brandies became increasingly popular during the First World War and in the period afterwards and alcohol consumption began to rise again, alcohol taxation was introduced at constitutional level in 1930 and in the Federal Law on Distilled Water (Alcohol Law) in 1932 . In 2004, with a special regulation for alcopops, the alcohol tax on these sweet mixed drinks was more than quadrupled.

Health aspects of alcohol taxation

Poster from the Federal Office for Health Education in Cologne

An occasional argument for increasing spirits and allied taxes (such as the beer tax) is the argument that higher taxes would lead to lower consumption and less health damage. This model appears attractive in countries with high alcohol consumption. For example, in Germany around 10% of the population consume alcohol in an amount that is considered risky or dangerous (men:> 30 grams / day, women:> 20 grams / day)

A study from 2010 used model calculations to examine the effects of increased alcohol prices on consumer behavior in England. According to this study, a minimum price of the equivalent of 50 cents per 10 g of alcohol (corresponds to approx. € 20 / case of beer, € 4 / bottle of wine, € 11 / bottle of high-proof alcohol) would have noticeable effects on consumption, sick leave and medical costs - with 'full effect' 10 years after its introduction: Consumption would decrease by around 4.5%, there would be around 1,970 alcohol-related deaths and 62,200 fewer hospital admissions per year and the measure would result in cumulative health costs of 4.7 billion euros over a 10-year period save on. The majority of the savings would be lost through a financial weighting of QALYs gained by the population. With a minimum alcohol price of 80 cents, these figures would be even clearer: 18.6% reduction in total consumption, 7,150 deaths and 226,400 fewer hospital admissions, as well as 18.4 billion euros in cumulative savings in health costs over a period of 10 years after the introduction. In this case, the savings for the British health system would amount to around 800 million euros per year. Applied to Germany (83 million inhabitants), the available absolute figures for England (50 million inhabitants) would probably be even higher according to this model calculation.

Opponents of a higher alcohol price have argued that excessive taxation increases illegal distillery and the smuggling of high-proof spirits. Since such goods are beyond the control of the state, damage to health from adulterated, low-quality alcoholic beverages is possible. The possible consequences include severe cirrhosis of the liver or blindness from methanol. In addition, the total may result in a loss of revenue for the state from the alcohol tax.

As of February 6, 2014, minimum prices for alcohol were set in England and Wales. A 440 ml beer can (5%) has a minimum price of 50 pence (approx. 0.61 euros), a liter of wine should have a minimum price of £ 2.24 (2.70 euros) and a bottle of vodka (40%) should cost at least £ 10.16 (12.27 euros). Critics dismissed these regulations as "ridiculous" as they would only affect about one percent of all alcohol sales. The Scottish regional government's plans, which were even more ambitious with regard to minimum prices, met with opposition from various wine-producing European countries (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria). Only Ireland supported the Scottish cause. The Scottish Government described the Scottish alcohol problem as "so serious that basic action is now required" ( The alcohol problem in Scotland is so significant that ground breaking measures are now required ). In December 2015, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Scottish Price Act violated European law if an alcohol tax could achieve the same goal. The UK Supreme Court , however, considers a minimum price of 50 cents per ten milliliters of pure alcohol to be "an appropriate means of attaining a legitimate goal".

In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, there have long been legal regulations for minimum prices for alcohol. It showed that a 10% increase in the price of alcohol led to an 8% decrease in alcohol consumption.

On January 1, 2010, at the instigation of the then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, minimum prices for vodka were set (89 rubles, corresponding to around two euros per half-liter bottle). These were intended to reduce excessive alcohol consumption, which in Russia was 18 liters of pure alcohol per person per year and which Medvedev described as a “national disgrace”. Medvedev announced the goal of reducing alcohol consumption by a quarter by 2012 through these and other measures.

A study published in January 2014 in the medical journal The Lancet , which surveyed more than 150,000 Russians about their drinking habits and observed them for several years, concluded that a major reason for the low median life expectancy of men in Russia was ( on average about 64 years, with 25% of all men dying before the age of 55) is the high alcohol consumption.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. The Abolition of the German Spirits Monopoly Website of the Federal Ministry of Finance , BMF monthly report, October 2017
  2. ^ Federal and state tax revenues in December 2013. Federal Ministry of Finance, January 31, 2014, accessed on February 8, 2014 .
  3. Federal Ministry for Health and Women : Handbook Alcohol - Austria Volume 3: Legal basis 2017, pp. 111, 112
  4. Sparkling Wine Tax Act Federal law consolidated: Entire legal provision for the Sparkling Wine Tax Act 1995, version dated November 15, 2014.
  5. Historical overview. Federal Alcohol Administration, accessed on November 18, 2013 .
  6. ^ A. Pabst, L. Kraus: Alcohol consumption, alcohol-related disorders and trends. Results of the epidemiological addiction survey 2006. In: Sucht. 54 (special issue 1), 2008, pp. S36 – S46. (pdf) ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. RC Purshouse et al .: Estimated effect of alcohol pricing policies on health and health economic outcomes in England: an epidemiological model. In: The Lancet . 375 (9723), 2010, pp. 1355-1364. PMID 20338629
  8. ^ Alcohol floor price announced for England and Wales. In: BBC News. February 4, 2014, accessed February 4, 2014 .
  9. James Cook: Minimum alcohol pricing: Five countries oppose Scottish drink plan. In: BBC News. July 25, 2013, accessed July 26, 2013 .
  10. Minimum alcohol pricing: Five countries oppose Scottish drink plan: How do wine producing EU countries view Scottish plans for minimum alcohol pricing? In: BBC News. July 25, 2013, accessed July 26, 2013 .
  11. Health Services> Alcohol> Minimum Pricing. The Scottish Government, accessed February 4, 2014 .
  12. ^ Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012
  13. ECJ, judgment of 23 December 2015 - Case C ‑ 333/14
  14. ^ ECJ overturns minimum price for Scottish whiskey Die Welt , 23 December 2015
  15. Scotland may set minimum price for alcohol FAZ , November 15, 2017
  16. Nick Triggle: The battle over alcohol pricing. In: BBC News. January 30, 2013, accessed July 26, 2013 .
  17. ^ Daniel Fisher: Trying to break Russia's vodka dependence. In: BBC News. January 1, 2010, accessed January 31, 2014 .
  18. D. Zaridze, S. Lewington, A. Boroda, G. Scélo, R. Karpov, A. Lazarev, I. Konobeevskaya, V. Igitov, T. Terechova, P. Boffetta, P. Sherliker, X. Kong, G. Whitlock, J. Boreham, P. Brennan, R. Peto: Alcohol and mortality in Russia: prospective observational study of 151,000 adults . In: Lancet. 383 (9927), Apr 26, 2014, pp. 1465-1473. doi: 10.1016 / S0140-6736 (13) 62247-3 . PMID 24486187