Home Economy Party-list legislator to propose higher alcohol tax

Party-list legislator to propose higher alcohol tax

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A man arranges bottles inside a liquor store in Quezon City, March 15, 2021. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

A BILL seeking to increase excise taxes on alcoholic beverages will be filed in Congress by the time it returns from recess, a party-list legislator said.

“Once we get the numbers, hopefully even before the State of the Nation Address (SONA), we will actually have a bill ready,” AnaKalusugan Party-list Rep. Ray T. Reyes said at a briefing on Tuesday.

“We wanted to do the number crunching first to find the optimal tax structure. If the government is going to be concerned about revenue generation, then I think they are willing to listen to find out the right tax structure to maximize their revenues at the soonest possible time without any effect on our economic productivity,” he added.

To reduce alcohol consumption, the government will have to raise prices by 6.5% every year, Action for Economic Reforms Fiscal Policy Program Officer Adolfo Jose A. Montesa said.

The Sin Tax Coalition has a target to bring alcohol consumption down to 2.9 liters per capita by 2030.

Citing data from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Mr. Montesa said per capita consumption is currently 5.4 liters per capita, up from 3.6 liters in 2010.

Aside from raising the alcohol tax, Mr. Reyes said other bills will also seek to penalize improper alcohol sales, regulate the marketing, labeling, and packaging of such beverages, and put more teeth in the rules against drunk driving.

The Department of Health (DoH) said it supports the general intent of the bills, which is to deter excessive drinking.

“We will await the filing of the bills. The DoH reaffirms our commitment to advocate… alcohol use prevention and control policies and forge partnerships that will facilitate a collaborative effort to reduce alcohol use,” Health department Director III Rodley Desmond Daniel M. Carza said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Montesa said the government can afford to increase the alcohol tax without worrying about inflation, contrary to the Finance department’s reluctance to introduce new taxes, adding that alcohol is not a basic need.

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto has expressed a preference to improving tax collection efficiency.

“We’d like to differentiate between excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol, products which are harmful to people, versus other kinds of taxes… We’d like to appeal to (Mr. Recto) to reconsider his stance on alcohol taxes because as the data show, there is not just a harm that needs to be addressed, but (also) a greater benefit that can be derived from raising alcohol taxes,” Mr. Montesa said.

Increasing alcohol tax could also boost economic growth as alcohol-related deaths in the younger demographic will fall, ensuring the steady entry of young people entering the workforce, he added.

“Raising alcohol taxes will (reduce the rate of) disease and death, which will reinvigorate our economy because you’ll have more healthy people who can participate in the labor force. At the same time, you are generating revenue to fund social programs,” he said. — Aaron Michael C. Sy

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