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

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Abstract

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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  • Nordström, Jonas & Thunström, Linda, 2010. "Can targeted food taxes and subsidies improve the diet? Distributional effects among income groups," Working Papers 2010:11, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2010_011 Note: Appendix available
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Säll, Sarah & Gren, Ing-Marie, 2012. "Green consumption taxes on meat in Sweden," Department of Economics publications 9294, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics.
    2. Härkänen, Tommi & Kotakorpi, Kaisa & Pietinen, Pirjo & Pirttilä, Jukka & Reinivuo, Heli & Suoniemi, Ilpo, 2014. "The welfare effects of health-based food tax policy," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(P1), pages 196-206.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    food; health; taxation; income groups; incidence; consumer economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • H22 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Incidence
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy

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