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What Do States Get from Your Boozing Habits?

Fun with sin tax data
by The Drink Nation on Sep 26, 2011 in Culture
What Do States Get from Your Boozing Habits?

In an interactive infographic, design experts at California-based Column Five make it easy to compare rates and revenue earned from sales tax on alcohol in the U.S. Using data provided by Intuit’s TurboTax, the visualization lets you browse through the 50 states and see who charges what in taxes on beer, wine or spirits, and how much each government is reaping from your boozing habits.

Texas
gets the biggest windfall from this particular sin tax, pulling in $784 million per year (numbers are all from the most recent data available, much of it 2010). However, that number in large part reflects the state’s huge population; their tax on spirits is one of the lowest out there ($2.40 per gallon). Only Maryland ($1.50), Colorado ($2.28) and Vermont ($0.68) are lower.

New Hampshire doesn’t charge tax on anything but beer ($0.30/gal) but all NH liquor stores are run by the state government, so this is understandable – the state is already earning a profit on each sale. So why is similarly state-run Pennsylvania so different? PA taxes spirits a whopping $6.54 per gallon, and pulls in $277 million per year by doing so.

Still, PA doesn’t extract anywhere near the biggest tithe, percentage-wise. That honor is held by Washington State, which hits up consumers for $26.45 per each gallon of booze they buy. Other top toll offenders are Oregon ($24.63), Virginia ($20.31) and Alabama ($18.78).

Folks who love wine might want to stay away from North Carolina, which holds top honors in taxing the fermented grape, at $2.34 per gallon, followed closely by Florida at $2.25. (To be fair, the Southeast U.S. is not known as wine-country.) The median levy on vintages across the nation is around half that amount.

Who drinks the most? Despite low tax rates, Texas revenue averages out rather high: $32 per person, compared to $23 per person in PA. (Lone Star imbibing habits could be aided by the drive-through guns-and-spirits stores that pepper many state roads.) The highest per person contribution to government coffers looks to be found in Alaska, where the $43 million in revenue is split amongst less than a million people, coming out to around $61 for each resident. (It’s cold. We understand.)

The takeaway: alcohol taxes fluctuate wildly throughout our country. If you had to decide what state to live in based on the graphic, where would you end up?

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