Australia, Beer and Tax

I’ve written quite a few posts about beer…

… to name but a few.

I’ve also written a few posts about tax…

As you can see though, I’ve written more about beer than I have about tax. No prizes for guessing that I prefer beer to tax.

Who doesn’t?

Today though, I am writing about beer…

Five Bavarian beers…AND tax.


A tax freeze on beer in Australia?

Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) have asked the Australian government to put a freeze on beer tax in this coming budget due August 1. According to the Courier Mail, tax and beer in Australia goes up automatically and has done since Bob Hawke ran the country 30 years ago.

He put in place a thing called “automatic excise change” wherein beer tax is increased twice a year under inflation-linked indexation.

Each and every Australian prime minister since has stuck with this “standing order tax hike” and it remains in place today. But CUB wants our current Chancellor, Wayne Swan, to put an end to it. They point to the UK where Chancellor George Osborne went even further by ditching a proposed 3p a pint rise and instead reducing the price of a pint by one penny.

The spokesman for CUB argues that beer tax in Australia is already high enough compared to other countries. He’s not kidding! Here are the stats…

Tax per 1 litre of pure alcohol

According to the article, here’s what a selection of countries pay in tax per litre of pure alcohol:

  • $32 – Australia
  • $28 – UK
  • $24 – Sweden
  • $10 – Netherlands
  • $9  – Italy
  • $9  – Hungary
  • $6  – Canada
  • $4  – France
  • $3  – Spain
  • $3  – Germany
  • $2  – US (California)

That makes the sober reading for beer lovers living in Australia and the UK, but it’s certainly not surprising. Tax on beer in the US (California) though is a big surprise to me.

Australians are paying 16 times more tax on beer than Californians?

Beer prices compared: Australia versus US (California)

I decided to go shopping for beer in California, online of course. I found that I could buy a Budweiser 12 pack of 12 ounce bottles for just $10.99.

Here in Australia you would pay around $40 (sometimes more) for 24 x 375 ml bottles of Victoria Bitter (VB), one of CUB’s best sellers.

12 ounces is the equivalent of 355 ml, so the Australian bottles are about 5.6% bigger. So if we take 2 of those Budweiser 12 packs, that would cost us $21.98, and if we add 5.6% that gives us $23.21 USD.

At current exchange rates, with the Australian dollar being worth just a tiny bit more than the USD, the direct comparison becomes…

  • 24 x Budweiser 375 ml = $22.63 AUD

Compared with…

  • 24 x VB 375 ml = $40 (or more) AUD

Beer in California then is almost half the price of beer here in Australia. As impressive as that is, with tax on beer in California being so much lower than it is here, you would expect beer there to be even cheaper than it is. Somebody is making much more profit than they are at CUB.

And that’s why I can’t imagine Wayne Swan taking any notice whatsoever.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • kaney boy January 24, 2019, 1:53 am |

    I live in Australia and its about 50 to 58 dollars for 24 beers where I live and that sucks coz everybody in Australia drinks beer even the elderly

    • BobinOz January 25, 2019, 5:22 pm |

      Same price here now, this post is nearly 6 years old.

  • John May 24, 2013, 2:38 am |

    You overestimated the cost of beer in California by using the 12-pack price. A 24 pack can be found as cheap as $14.99.

    • BobinOz May 24, 2013, 7:18 pm |

      Really? Wow! That would cost us around $40 here. And they call Australia the lucky country? Makes you wonder…

  • RaoulDuke66 May 3, 2013, 12:05 am |

    Well I paid $20 for a pint of Stella in a Belgian pub in the CBD… and swiftly moved onwards! Mind you, you can make some savings from buying from a drive-thru liquor store (no, UK residents, it isn’t a joke)!

    • BobinOz May 3, 2013, 5:53 pm |

      $20 for a pint of Stella?!! I’ve been in that Belgian bar, I think, it is a very expensive bar, but are you sure that was Stella?

      The only reason I ask is because they do sell some extraordinary expensive Belgian beers, things like Chimay, you know, the sort of thing brewed by monks are matured for decades or whatever. They are very strong, but they are not cheap.

      But if it was Stella, gosh!

      You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve only ever been to the place once. I guess that’ll be the same for you too 🙂

  • Andrew April 24, 2013, 7:20 pm |

    24 x 375ml = 9 litres.

    VB’s alcohol content is 4.6% so 0.414 litres @ $32 tax per litre = £13.25 tax.
    So the pre-tax cost of the VB is $26.75.

    Budweiser’s alcohol content is 5% so 0.45 litres @ $2 tax per litre = $0.90.
    So the pre-tax cost of the Bud is $21.73.

    • BobinOz April 25, 2013, 12:56 am |

      Well, how about that? I didn’t do the maths, now I realise I should have done!

      Thanks for pointing this out Andrew, so not only is tax much lower in California, but they are producing their beer cheaper than we are here in Australia.

      So, maybe our Chancellor should consider that tax freeze after all and, at the same time, maybe CUB and our other brewers can look at cutting their production costs back a bit.

      Now we’ve got two things that are unlikely to happen.

      • Jake July 2, 2016, 12:19 am |

        I was born in and lived in Adelaide, South Australia for 34 years before migrating to the US, so speak on taxes with some authority.
        Taxes in Oz on most goods, products or services are high because just about anything that one does is regulated by federal, state or local law, requiring fees, risk assessments, permits, licenses, certificates, inspections, recommendations, consents and such. From planting a tree at home (or cutting one down OR even watering one), climbing a ladder at work or where your grocery items come from and who can handle them; someone believes that they have the right to police and regulate that activity “for your ultimate benefit”. Grocery store chains such as Aldi cannot sell fresh eggs, potatoes or milk at their globally acknowledged cheap prices because some regulating busy-body says that it is not fair to a cow, a chicken, a farmer, or the grocery store across town that never discounts anything. Even shoppers themselves who prefer to shop elsewhere, do not want others to benefit from Aldi’s cheaper prices. How crazy is that?
        The beer and wine industries (and don’t get me started if you are still a smoker) are further taxed mercilessly (because they are “luxuries”) to provide poor services such as public transportation, education and national health. Because I still maintain contact with many Australians and read much Oz news, I know that like death, taxes and the services they are meant to provide, have remained unchanged in my absence and are not getting any better. I would have to drink an awful lot of beer to overlook those facts.
        Even though some things could be improved in the US (I prefer to do most for myself rather than depend on the government), such is the ridiculousness of life in Australia.

        • BobinOz July 2, 2016, 11:53 pm |

          Taxes are a part of all of our lives, no matter what country you live in. Every country has its fair share of ridiculous stealth taxes, I myself once had to pay $100 when chopping down a tree (it was on the council’s pavement, I wanted it gone for a driveway) here in Australia.

          I believe the UK recently voted to leave the EU in part because of the kinds of rules and restrictions that were being imposed on them from Brussels about who can sell what for the good of the people. This is not just an Australian thing, it’s probably global.

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