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“The harm done to people on low incomes by sin taxes cannot be shrugged off. Regressive taxation has a strict definition in economics. It means taking a greater share of income from the poor than from the rich. It is indisputable that alcohol and tobacco taxes have had that effect in Britain and the sugar tax will do the same when it begins on Friday.
“The claim that poor people disproportionately benefit from these taxes is absurd. Sugar taxes have not reduced obesity rates anywhere in the world and smoking is much more prevalent among the poor than among the rich, despite decades of high taxes on tobacco. There is precious little evidence that poor people benefit from being taxed. On the contrary, sin taxes drive them further into poverty.”
Notes to Editors:
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- In 2015/16, indirect taxes took 34% of disposable income from people in the poorest decile but only 14% from people in the richest decile.
- In 2015/16, people in the poorest decile spent 2.9% of disposable income on tobacco duty (£276). Those in the richest decile spent 0.1% (£109).
- In 2015/16, people in the poorest decile spent 2.0% of disposable income on alcohol duty (£196). Those in the richest decile spent 0.9% (£671).
(Source: Income, tax and benefit data by income decile for all households, ONS.)
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Further IEA Reading: Aggressively Regressive: The ‘sin taxes’ that make the poor poorer