The price of cask wine could double within 18 months, with major drinks companies and health experts lobbying the Abbott government to revamp a tax system that unduly favours bulk wine sales.
The federal government is considering changes to rebates for the wine equalisation tax in the May budget, which could signal the first moves towards a broader volumetric tax on alcohol sales in Australia.
Changes to the wine tax rebate – targeting large producers of bulk wine and New Zealand-based producers – would reap only a little more than $50 million for the government.
But with a tax white paper looming, there is potential for the longer-term removal of anomalies in Australia’s tax system that are considered to favour the big players in the wine industry. Such changes could reap as much as $600 million a year, and double the cost of a five-litre cask of wine.
“I wouldn’t expect too much in this budget, but we are certainly looking at anomalies in the tax system that favour large producers of cheap alcohol, and the health issues associated with those anomalies,” a senior adviser to the government said.
“We give a quarter of the wine taxes we collect back to the industry as rebates. The trick will be to lift the tax on cheap wine without impacting the wider industry.”
Treasury data shows wine is about a third of alcohol consumed in Australia, but brings in only a seventh of alcohol-related revenue for the government.
The wine cask was invented in 1965 by South Australia’s Angove family. A five-litre cask is among the cheapest forms of alcohol available, containing up to 50 standard drinks and selling for as little as $11.
The federal government collects just 4 cents in alcohol tax per standard drink of cask wine, but beer drinkers pay more than 40 cents per standard drink in excise. Consumers who buy pre-mixed spirits pay more than $1 per standard drink in alcohol taxes.
Health bodies have welcomed moves by the government to re-examine how alcohol is taxed.
“Cheap cask wine is a serious health issue in many communities,” said Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at Melbourne University.
“There is good evidence that increasing the price of bulk alcohol such as cask wine is a good approach, as it improves health outcomes. There is also an enormous tax benefit for the government and for society, so I am glad they looking at this issue.”
Michael Moore, chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, said tax reform was needed to help address many of the health and social issues associated with alcohol abuse.
“The price of alcohol has a strong correlation to the harm it causes,” he said. “We have gone to two elections calling for these very reforms to alcohol pricing and have seen how companies are using loopholes to produce new products aimed at the youth market that are based on wine, to try and get around the taxes.”
He said one product, called Divas V Kat Raspberry, was marketed as “100 per cent Australian made from real Australian wine grapes, allowing it to be priced as fortified wine, yet it tastes and smells exactly like top quality vodka”. A bottle costs $12, it contains 11 standard drinks, and the tax collected is just 16 cents per standard drink.
Some products marketed as cider are also made from a wine base to reduce the amount of tax paid.
Treasury has called on the major alcohol companies to make submissions to the government’s white paper on taxation. A special task force will consider a volumetric tax on all alcohol, with a decision to be announced later in the year.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.