Briefing Note (BN124)

Alcohol pricing and taxation policies

Date: 24 November 2011
DOI: 10.1920/bn.ifs.2011.00124

Recently, a range of policies that would affect alcohol prices have been introduced or considered. Following an announcement in the March 2011 Budget, higher taxes on strong beers (above 7.5% alcohol by volume) and reduced taxes on low-strength beers (of 2.8% ABV or less) came into force in October 2011. A ban on 'below-cost' sales of alcohol (where 'cost' is defined as the total tax - duty and VAT - due on the product) is set to be introduced for England and Wales, though the timetable is not yet clear. And following their victory in the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election, the SNP have committed to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol, following an unsuccessful attempt to do so in 2010. This Briefing Note uses detailed data recording off-licence alcohol purchases for a large sample of households to assess which types of alcohol products, retailers and consumers would be most affected by these different reforms.