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Taxing Alcohol in Africa: Reflections from International Experience

  • Richard M. Bird

    (International Tax Program, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto)

  • Sally Wallace

    ()

    (Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University)

Governments exist, in part, to cope with the weaknesses of their citizens and subsist, to some extent, on the basis of those same weaknesses. Alcoholic beverages have long played a critical role on both sides of this equation. Over-indulgence in drink is a factor in crime, injury, and illness. It is also a potentially lucrative source of tax revenue. From a public policy perspective, alcohol thus has two faces: viewed from one side, it is a villain giving rise to social problems and consequently the need for public expenditure; viewed from the other, however, it is a hero riding to the rescue with copious fiscal returns. This ambivalence has, over the years, led to many hypotheses with respect to how much and how to tax alcohol and not a little hypocrisy in the public discussion of this question. This paper summarize the current state of the art of taxing alcohol around the world, and draws from international experience some implications for sub-Saharan African governments that are wrestling with the apparently eternal conundrums and trade-offs that confound alcohol tax policy everywhere.

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File URL: http://www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca/iib/ITP0304.pdf
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Paper provided by International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto in its series International Tax Program Papers with number 0304.

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Length: 50 Pages
Date of creation: Jun 2003
Date of revision: Nov 2003
Handle: RePEc:ttp:itpwps:0304
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  1. Young, Douglas J & BieliĀ“nska-Kwapisz, Agnieszka, 2002. "Alcohol Taxes and Beverage Prices," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(N. 1), pages 57-73, March.
  2. Jonathan Gruber, 2001. "Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub01-1, January.
  3. David M. Cutler, 2002. "Health Care and the Public Sector," NBER Working Papers 8802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Pogue, Thomas F & Sgontz, Larry G, 1989. "Taxing to Control Social Costs: The Case of Alcohol," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 235-43, March.
  5. Henry Saffer & Frank Chaloupka, 1994. "Alcohol Tax Equalization and Social Costs," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 33-43, Winter.
  6. Charles dh Parry & Bronwyn Myers & Michael Thiede, 2003. "The Case for an Increased Tax on Alcohol in South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 71(2), pages 137-145, 06.
  7. Michael Keen, 1998. "The balance between specific and ad valorem taxation," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 19(1), pages 1-37, February.
  8. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Henry Saffer & Adit Laixuthai, 1993. "Effects of Alcohol Price Policy on Youth," NBER Working Papers 4385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Michael Grossman, 1993. "Policy Watch: Alcohol and Cigarette Taxes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 211-222, Fall.
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