The increase was included in the "Illinois Jobs Now!" act, which is a $31 billion capital improvement bill - lots of road, bridge and transit expenditures, as well as some money for schools and community development. To pay for it, there are lots of new taxes and fees, including an increased sales tax on candy (which has it's own headaches), sweetened tea & coffee drinks, increase title, registration and drivers license fees, taxes on grooming & hygiene products, and the controversial introduction of video gambling.
The increased beer, wine and spirits taxes are only expected to raise $119 million, so they're really a small part of this massive spending bill. However, the increases leave Illinois with the highest liquor taxes in the nation. That's right, the HIGHEST in the nation among non-control states, by a factor of 31% over the next highest state.
COMPARISON TO OTHER STATES
One of our customers (thanks Adam!) gave me a handy-dandy chart today that shows all the tax rates in all the states in the US that are not control states (meaning the state governments do not run the liquor stores and/or act as the distributor - they are traditional three-tier states, so we're comparing apples to apples).
Top Ten States
Although the Marin Institute says this is good news, this is really unfortunate for our industry and the consumer who imbibes. Here's the ranking by state liquor tax rates.
1. Illinois, as of 9/1/09 - $8.55 per gallon
2. Florida - $6.50
3. New York - $6.43
4. Hawaii - $5.98
5. New Mexico - $5.68
6. Alaska - $5.60
7. Minnesota - $5.03
8. Oklahoma - $4.56
9. Connecticut - $4.50 (Illinois would have been tied for 8th before)
10. New Jersey - $4.40
WHO GETS HURT
- Consumers who Drink. In most cases, a 750 ml bottle of spirits is going to cost at least $2 more, perhaps $3, regardless of the bottle's pricepoint, and before sales taxes. In Chicago, for example, once you factor in the federal, state, county and city manufacturing taxes, as well as sales taxes, more than 25% of the cost of a $30 bottle of spirits is tax - not money to the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer - taxes.
- Liquor stores near the border with another state that has lower taxes. Wisconsin is $3.25 per gallon, Indiana is $2.68 per gallon. Illinois is $8.55. The difference translates to a few dollars per bottle - in each case, it's over $1 per 750 ml bottle in tax, before markups. People near borders will cross them and stock up, even if doing so is technically illegal. So we're sending business to our neighboring states.
- The Little Stores. The single, independently owned liquor stores will probably suffer. They often don't have the resources and clout to buy huge quantities and stock up before the increase, or negotiate with the powerful distributors, so they'll be hit with the increase (and price increases) sooner. And little producers, like us, don't have a lot of wiggle room on pricing to absorb the tax, so our prices will go up, despite the tough economy.
- Bars and Restaurants. Bars and restaurants are already suffering in this economy, and now they'll be forced to either raise drink prices or work on a slimmer margin, neither of which is particularly appealing. Once you break the tax increase down to a per-ounce count, in theory it would be about 5¢ per ounce. In reality, after distributor markups, it will be more like 8¢ an ounce in additional tax per ounce, or around 25¢ per cocktail (assuming about 3 oz of taxed liquid total). It may not sound like a lot, but that 25¢ per drink will add up quickly. And it doesn't matter what caliber of spirits you're using, if it's over 20% alcohol, it's the same tax regardless of price.