Friday, June 27, 2014

Australia's Comical Excise Tax

No exploration of bad liquor laws can leave out Australia's absurd excise tax system for beer. Apparently it derives from some appalling political grandstanding. Beer in vessels larger than 48 litres, which effectively means beer in 50 litre kegs, are charged significantly lower excise. It was made this way so that after the application of GST in 2000 beer in pubs could return to pre-GST prices.

The anomalies and penalties that it creates are innumerable. One good one example was explained to me once. Excise is paid when beer leaves a brewery or when it's imported. At a shop that offers growler fills, when beer is taken from a keg to a growler it's considered that it is now being sold in a vessel smaller than 48 litres. So the rate of excise that was originally paid on the 50L keg is suddenly wrong. So the retailer has to figure out the new excise that should be paid on the volume in the growler and collect the difference. Of course if the beer had gone into a glass and was consumed on the premises, then this higher excise rate wouldn't apply. (Yes, even though a glass is a vessel that the beer is sold in that is smaller than 48 litres.)

State Mandated Beer Temperatures

Apparently in Indiana in the US, the state decides what temperature you can sell beer at. At the moment only "package liquor stores", whatever they are, can sell you a cold beer. Beer at convenience stores must be at room temperature. The reasoning is that if beer sold at convenience stores was allowed to be cold then that would just make people drink more. Too bad that beer keeps better if it stays cold.

Perhaps if they thought it through they'd realise that customers of beer from convenience stores would just get in the habit of buying more and sooner and would invest in more refrigeration at their homes or workplaces. Meaning that laws like this really just exist to stimulate sales of fridges.

I wonder too, whether any convenience store owners have thought of turning their whole store into a cool room. There are plenty of other goods that need to be kept cold, others that might benefit even if they aren't normally chilled and there can't be many goods that are better at 20 degrees than 4. So if the whole store had a room temperature of 4 degrees, would the authorities intervene?

One other thing. There's such a thing as the Indiana State Excise Police. How frightening is that? Here's their story. Their mission is "to provide quality service and to protect the morals and welfare of the people of the State of Indiana." Chilling. I wonder what their uniform is.