Estimated impacts of alternative Australian alcohol taxation structures on consumption, public health and government revenues
Australasian Medical Publishing Company
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
ECU Health and Wellness Institute
Objective: To examine health and economic implications of modifying taxation of alcohol in Australia. Design and setting: Economic and epidemiological modelling of four scenarios for changing the current taxation of alcohol products, including: replacing the wine equalisation tax (WET) with a volumetric tax; applying an equal tax rate to all beverages equivalent to a 10% increase in the current excise applicable to spirits and ready-to-drink products; applying an excise tax rate that increases exponentially by 3% for every 1% increase in alcohol content above 3.2%; and applying a two-tiered volumetric tax. We used annual sales data and taxation rates for 2010 as the base case. Main outcome measures: Alcohol consumption, taxation revenue, disabilityadjusted life-years (DALYs) averted and health care costs averted. Results: In 2010, the Australian Government collected close to $8.6 billion from alcohol taxation. All four of the proposed variations to current rates of alcohol excise were shown to save money and more effectively reduce alcohol-related harm compared with the 2010 base case. Abolishing the WET and replacing it with a volumetric tax on wine would increase taxation revenue by $1.3 billion per year, reduce alcohol consumption by 1.3%, save $820 million in health care costs and avert 59 000 DALYs. The alternative scenarios would lead to even higher taxation receipts and greater reductions in alcohol use and harm. Conclusions: Our research findings suggest that any of the proposed variations to current rates of alcohol excise would be a cost-effective health care intervention; they thus reinforce the evidence that taxation is a cost-effective strategy. Of all the scenarios, perhaps the most politically feasible policy option at this point in time is to abolish the WET and replace it with a volumetric tax on wine. This analysis supports the recommendation of the National Preventative Health Taskforce and the Henry Review towards taxing alcohol according to alcohol content.