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Pubs say beer tax means pints are becoming an “unaffordable luxury”

Beer taxes are unusually high in Britain, at 52p a pint, and pubs and beer-drinkers are mad about it.

What it means: The tax the government puts on beer has risen 39 percent in the last ten years, which means we now pay three times more tax than the EU average (and 14 times more than Germans) every time we enjoy a quick one down our local.

Pubs say high beer tax is bad for them (they’re losing money because the high prices put people off from drinking), bad for their staff (who are being laid off) and bad for their customers (who are paying more for their drinks).They claim that the tax has caused a 24 percent decline in beer sales, 5,000 pubs to close down, and 58,000 people to lose their jobs. They’ve also said it’s particularly unfair on poorer Brits, because it’s making beer into an “affordable luxury”.

None of that is good. But it’s also not the whole story. Governments tax stuff in order to pay for things that lots of us – including beer-drinkers – like: hospitals, roads, pensions, council houses etc. Indeed, lots of us would like the government to spend more money on these sort of public services, especially after eight years of austerity (public spending cuts), which have also affected the poorest people the most.

Of course, the government doesn’t have to raise taxes to spend more money (it could borrow more instead) and it doesn’t have to tax beer. But cheaper beer, and cheaper alcohol in general, can be bad for people’s health because it encourages them to drink more. You might not like that the government has the right to push ‘better’ lifestyle choices on you. But the government does this a lot– by, say, putting age restrictions on cigarettes or making it illegal to buy cocaine.

Plus, higher taxes on alcohol specifically might make sense because of how much it costs the taxpayers. Alcohol use runs up NHS costs of £3.5 billion a year, which works out as about £120 per taxpayer. You’d have to buy 231 pints before you’re paying as much as that in beer tax.

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