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Drinkers 'pay billions of pounds in tax more than they cost'

Published 03/09/2015

Using recent health, crime and drinking data, the report suggests drinkers are not a burden to the taxpayer
Using recent health, crime and drinking data, the report suggests drinkers are not a burden to the taxpayer

English drinkers subsidise non-drinkers by £6.5 billion a year, a report claims.

The direct costs of alcohol use to the government in England - including NHS, police, criminal justice and welfare costs - amount to £3.9 billion each year, while revenues from alcohol taxes amount to £10.4 billion.

Using recent health, crime and drinking data, a report by Christopher Snowdon for the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that contrary to popular belief, drinkers are not a burden to the taxpayer.

The net cost of alcohol to the state is minus £6.5 billion, and even if the Government halved all forms of alcohol duty, it would still receive more money in tax than it spends dealing with alcohol-related problems, Mr Snowdon claims.

He said: "It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

"Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

"The economic evidence is very clear on this.

"Forty per cent of the EU's entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six-and-a-half billion pounds a year."

In 2003 a report produced by Dr Rannia Leontaridi for the Cabinet Office suggested that alcohol use cost Britain £20 billion a year.

But Mr Snowdon claims that it applied to England, not Britain, and is misleading because it conflates social and economic costs with the costs to government departments - the cost to the taxpayer.

He found that alcohol-related crime costs the taxpayer nearly £1 billion per year, while other alcohol-related crimes, including drink-driving, add a further £627 million, making a total cost to the police and criminal justice system of £1.6 billion.

Alcohol-related health problems cost £1.9 billion annually, with half of these coming from alcohol-related hospital admissions, and a further £530 million spent on Accident and Emergency attendances.

Welfare payments given to those unable to work because of mental or physical ill health attributable to alcohol consumption amount to £289 million.

Mr Snowden arrived at his results by using the 2003 figures and adjusting for inflation for all expenses which are costs to the taxpayer, but not social costs.

He used some more up-to-date statistics - such as A&E attendance figures from 2015 - where available.

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