The taxation of alcoholic beverages has for centuries been a major source of government revenue in many countries, but there has always been a risk that excessive taxation might threaten the economic viability of the alcoholic beverage industries by forcing prices up to an unacceptable or unaffordable level. In a few countries, e.g. Sweden (and, to a lesser extent, the other Scandinavian countries), where the anti alcohol movement is politically influential, this has been a deliberate policy, although in practice it tends to encourage smuggling and illicit production rather than reducing consumption. Other countries have used taxation to favour specific types of alcoholic beverages over others (as in Poland, where the continued growth in beer consumption is partly attributed to heavy taxation on spirits, introduced because of a government policy of encouraging the consumption of beverages with a more moderate alcoholic strength, or in Japan, where traditional local beverages have been much less heavily taxed than European style beers, wines and spirits) or to promote diversity by taxing the products of small companies at a lower rate than equivalent products from large concerns (as in Germany, where the sliding scale of beer taxation, according to brewery output, has aided the survival of a great number of small independent brewing companies). Trends in beer taxation in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA and China from the 1960s to the time of writing are illustrated by graphs and their effects on the economic performance of these countries' brewing industries are discussed. It is pointed out that when beer consumption is stagnant or declining, any attempts by the government to increase its revenue by raising the tax rate is almost certain to accelerate the decrease in beer consumption as prices rise, especially where cheaper foreign beer is readily available (as in the UK, where the rising excise duty has led to large scale "personal" importation of beer from France).
Keywords : beer brewing industry consumption costs economics excise duty sales tax