Fiscal and Externality Rationales for Alcohol Policies
Alcohol taxes are typically justified as a means to address externalities from alcohol abuse and to raise government revenue. Prior literature has focused on measuring the Pigouvian tax but has paid little attention to the fiscal rationale. This paper presents an analytical and simulation framework for assessing the optimal levels, and welfare effects, of alcohol taxes and drunk driver penalties, accounting for both externalities and how policies interact with the broader fiscal system.
Under plausible parameter values and recycling possibilities, the fiscal component of the optimal alcohol tax may be as large, or larger, than the externality-correcting component. Therefore, fiscal considerations can significantly strengthen the case for higher alcohol taxes. They also raise the welfare gains from alcohol taxes relative to those from drunk driver penalties, and they warrant differential taxation of individual beverages on an alcohol equivalent basis.
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