Bills to Slide Back Federal Beer Taxes

February 18, 2015

Two competing bills to cut excise taxes for beer producers have been introduced by Congress. In the 23 years that have passed since the last increase, the government has lost millions in inflation erosion, and economic harm from excessive alcohol consumption now costs U.S. governments over $94 billion a year. If either bill is enacted, millions more in tax revenue will be lost.

Bills to reduce beer excise taxes have provided a national stage for this industry food fight, complete with hundreds of hours of face-time for beer lobbyists to cement their influence on members of Congress. The Beer Institute (BI), a producer trade group led by the Big Beer Duopoly, has been behind annual bills to slash excise taxes for all brewers for years. The Brewers Association began its promotional efforts for an annual bill to decrease beer taxes in 2011, and the two industry groups have been at it ever since.

This year's BI bill, House Bill 767, would eliminate or lower excise taxes on the first 2 million barrels and extend tax breaks to beer importers. The bill would cost $113 million per year in lost taxes. The BI spent $2.1 million in 2014 alone lobbying Congress, their number one issue to oppose any increase in the federal excise tax.

Senate Bill 375, the latest from the Brewer's Association, would cut the excise tax rate for all beer producers, regardless of size. The bill would cost $64 million per year in lost taxes. This would allow A-B InBev and MillerCoors each an extra $870,000 in tax savings each year; A-B InBev reported $43.2 billion in revenue in 2013, and SABMiller, MillerCoors's parent company, reported $34.5 billion.

88,000 people in the U.S., 1 in 10 working-aged adults, die each year from excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol excise taxes are the most effective public health intervention to reduce excessive consumption and alcohol-related harm. Instead of allowing beer producers to whittle away at effective public health policy and government tax revenues, Congress should consider a reasonable beer tax increase.

View state and federal bills on alcohol taxes here.