Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) held a hearing on Tuesday, May 12th on Financing Comprehensive Healthcare Reform. Senator Baucus invited healthcare policy experts, tax policy experts, and economists to join Finance Committee members to discuss the tax and savings options that the Committee should consider as it works to craft a healthcare reform bill. Senators and experts discussed a wide variety of ideas for looking for funding within and outside the healthcare system, including proposals by two of the witnesses to triple the beer tax and to find savings to pay for healthcare.
It is imperative that you call your member of Congress and your Senators, especially if they are on the Senate Finance Committee and weigh-in on the devastating impact ANY increase on the federal excise tax on beer would have on your business. The two links below can help you determine your member of Congress and Senators.
If you want to read more about the Senate Finance Committee round table on Tuesday, where three of the thirteen people called on to testify about how to pay for Obama’s $1.5 trillion universal health case initiative suggested that the excise tax on beer should be increased by between 50% and 400%, check out my other blog, the Brookston Beer Bulletin. The following two links can help you determine your member of Congress and Senators. And below is a table of the members of the Senate Finance Committee with a link to each member. Public comments can also be made at the committee’s website.
Offsetting Any Revenue Generated by the Tax
Directly and indirectly, the beer industry employs approximately 1.9 million Americans, paying them almost $62 billion in wages and benefits and generating more than $198 billion in economic output. Proposals to triple or quadruple the excise tax will have severe economic impacts on the industry. Just tripling the current beer tax to $20.25/proof gallon will cost the country jobs at a time when the national unemployment rate is the highest it has been since 1983. Beer Institute estimates that a 300% increase in the excise tax on beer will result in 179,000 lost jobs, $5.9 billion in lost wages, $18.9 billion in lost economic output, and $2.7 billion in lost federal, state, and local revenues from decreased production and consumption. The impacts of these tax increases may be even greater for small businesses as microbreweries and brewpubs will be hit with significantly larger tax bills. Many of these smaller companies may be forced to close.
An excise tax is designed to collect additional monies as volumes increase over time. The growth in beer industry volumes have added more than $800 million in additional federal revenue since 1991 when the beer excise tax was doubled. Excise taxes are hidden taxes on consumers who pay them in the final retail price of a product. In 2008, taxes on the beer industry at all levels of government added up to more than $41 billion dollars. The total tax burden of federal, state, and local taxes on beer are more than 41 percent of the retail price paid by consumers.
Lower Income Consumers
Approximately 50 percent of all beer purchased in the United States is by consumers with household incomes of $50,000 per year or less. That means the relative impact of beer excise taxes on households in the lowest income brackets is 6.5 times greater than those with the highest incomes.
The vast majority of our consumers are hardworking Americans who do not abuse alcohol products (Source: Harris Interactive, 2008). By levying an even higher tax on this segment of the population, Congress will make it even more difficult for them to enjoy a simple pleasure during these difficult economic times. These are exactly the people who should not be penalized in a misguided attempt to deter the small percentage of the public that abuses these products. Furthermore, during the fall 2008 campaigns, many candidates called for providing tax relief to this portion of the population. Brewers and beer importers agree, which is why they have supported measures such as the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief (B.E.E.R.) Act of 2009, which already has 174 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The BEER Act (H.R. 836) hopes to return the federal beer excise tax back to its pre-1991 level of $9 per barrel for large brewers and $3.50 for small brewers.