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Can targeted food taxes and subsidies improve the diet? Distributional effects among income groups

This paper analyses distributional effects of revenue-neutral tax reforms aimed at improving dietary quality and encouraging healthier grain consumption. Using data on household grain purchases, we analyse both the impact on dietary quality and the tax incidence among income groups of VAT reforms and excise duty reforms. The VAT reforms include subsidies of healthy products(products labelled with the Swedish National Food Administration’s healthy symbol) funded by increased VAT on ‘less healthy’ products. The excise duty reforms contain a subsidy of fibre content, funded by excise duties on either added sugar or saturated fat. Our results suggest that the VAT reforms have a similar impact on dietary quality across all income groups, with increases in fibre intake, but also unwanted increases in the intake of nutrients frequently overconsumed: fat, salt and sugar. The impact on dietary quality of the VAT reforms is therefore difficult to evaluate. With the exception of the lowest income group, the excise duty reforms seem to have a positive health effect across all other income groups, with increases in the intake of fibre and reductions in the intake of saturated fat, sugar and added sugar. For the lowest income group we find the highest increase in the intake of fibre, but generally an increase in the intake of the other nutrients, too. The excise duty reforms also result in a more energy-dense grain diet, with increases in the intake of calories for all income groups. Both the VAT reforms and the excise duty reforms appear to be progressive. The lowest income group pays less food taxes and generally faces a lower overall post-reform price level. The income group that increases its tax payments most is the one with the highest income. This is also the income group that faces the largest increase in the overall post-reform price level.

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Paper provided by HUI Research in its series HUI Working Papers with number 44.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as Nordström, Jonas and Linda Thunström, 'Can targeted food taxes and subsidies improve the diet? Distributional effects among income groups' in Food Policy, 2011, pages 259-271.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:huiwps:0044
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  1. Leung, Siu Fai & Yu, Shihti, 1996. "On the choice between sample selection and two-part models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1-2), pages 197-229.
  2. Nordström, Jonas & Thunström, Linda, 2007. "The Impact of Tax Reforms Designed to Encourage a Healthier Grain Consumption," Umeå Economic Studies 717, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
  3. Chouinard Hayley H & Davis David E & LaFrance Jeffrey T & Perloff Jeffrey M, 2007. "Fat Taxes: Big Money for Small Change," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(2), pages 1-30, June.
  4. Blundell, Richard & Meghir, Costas, 1987. "Bivariate alternatives to the Tobit model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 179-200.
  5. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 1997. "Quadratic Engel Curves And Consumer Demand," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(4), pages 527-539, November.
  6. Amemiya, Takeshi, 1974. "Multivariate Regression and Simultaneous Equation Models when the Dependent Variables Are Truncated Normal," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(6), pages 999-1012, November.
  7. Smed, Sinne & Jensen, Jorgen D. & Denver, Sigrid, 2007. "Socio-economic characteristics and the effect of taxation as a health policy instrument," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5-6), pages 624-639.
  8. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  9. Fred Kuchler & Abebayehu Tegene & J. Michael Harris, 2005. "Taxing Snack Foods: Manipulating Diet Quality or Financing Information Programs?," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 27(1), pages 4-20.
  10. Blundell, Richard & Pashardes, Panos & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "What Do We Learn About Consumer Demand Patterns from Micro Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 570-97, June.
  11. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
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