Counterpoint by Scott Freeman How much tax are we paying for alcohol!?


Anyone who has read this column before will know I am not a man to sit on the fence. I have opinions and I believe in expressing them.

Because I have strong views I tend to be difficult to persuade to an alternative point of view. Mrs F would tell you that a change of heart comes around about as often as a royal jubilee, which is a coincidence, because this week I am prepared to moderate my views – in return for a little honesty.

The Scots have decided to introduce a 50p minimum per-unit price for alcohol, with our own nanny state queueing up to follow suit.

I still maintain that this wrong-headed policy will simply boost the profits of supermarkets at the expense of the poorest people in society. But I am prepared to be proved wrong.

Let’s have an independent study of the impact of this move. Not statistics massaged by the law enforcers, medics and hand-wringing politicians, but a properly evidenced report which shows the real impact of such a move.

One thing that would sober us all up is if the government insisted on the labelling of all alcoholic drinks with a breakdown of exactly how much tax we paid on each bottle.

Ministers have been bullying food manufacturers to have labels detailing the fat, salt and sugar content of everything on supermarket shelves.

Wouldn’t it be good to have such so-called ‘transparency’ on alcohol?

I suspect most casual drinkers would be amazed to know that each £5 bottle of wine at Sainsbury’s is subject to £1.90 in duty (that’s tax to you and me) and a further 83p in VAT. In simple terms that means that for every sip you have on a Friday evening, George Osborne raises a glass too.

Beer drinkers are equally hard hit. The average-priced pint carries taxes of about £1. Quite a chunk if you want to drown your recession sorrows.