Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Beer Then Wine, We’ll Be Fine

Credit – public domain

“I have taken more out of alcohol that alcohol has taken out of me“, declared Winston Churchill.

The national saviour and veteran tosspot was right not just for himself, but for his nation.

Because it turns out that here in the UK, drinkers pay for quite a bit of what we need doing.

But how much?

When we on the Right lazily claim that welfare recipients spend their dole money on “beer and fags”, the Left insists that this is a myth – that dole money is barely enough to live on, and there is precious little left over for recreationals.

Let’s take their claim as valid.

This means that those who buy alcohol are mostly those with jobs.

Which means they are mostly paying tax and national insurance contributions (putting aside those working on the black market)

Of these stalwarts, we will also have to exclude those who work in the public sector – they pay their tax bills with our money, after all. We have all merely agreed to pretend they make a financial contribution to the nation in exchange for them making valuable contributions of other kinds. Doctoring, nursing, counting lesbians, giving us speeding tickets – noble enterprises all, no doubt.

So……those working in the competitive private sector who pay their taxes are the ones really paying for the stuff the government does. We also probably have to exclude most of those in the corporate sector, because most of their money comes from government contracts. More people paying their tax bills with our money.

Whatever – these taxpayers pay for the NHS. £130bn in total last year.

Of that £130bn, a chunk of it is diverted to pay for treatments related to alcohol and there are broadly three categories:

1 – Direct (alcoholic liver disease, for example)
2 – Indirect (pisshead falls through window and needs stitches on a Friday night, for example)
3 – Nominal (patient comes in with hypertension and the doctor thinks they might be drinking a bit too much)

When we add up how much the NHS spends dealing with this wide array of problems, we get a figure of £3.5bn a year.

And that’s a really interesting figure, because alcohol duties raise about £12bn a year.

Credit – public domain

So contrary to what you might be told about how drinkers are unfairly using NHS resource, it turns out that not only are they paying for the NHS generally just as all of us are (they have jobs and pay their taxes after all), but they are specifically also paying £12bn of additional tax on the alcohol that is causing only £3.5bn of expenditure.

I wonder what the rest of that £12bn goes on? We have a spare £8.5bn to spend.

Well, the NHS spent £6bn last year on cancer treatments,, including £600m on treating breast cancer (the top expenditure amongst cancers)

That’s leaves us with £2.5bn.

The NHS spends about that much on neonatal care each year – health problem in babies.

So there you go – next time someone tells you that drinkers are taking more out of the NHS that they are putting in, you can tell them that not only are they paying their normal contribution like everyone else, but also they are paying an additional direct tax that pays for all alcohol-related treatments, all cancer treatments, and all treatments for babies.

It turns out that we are taking a great deal more out of alcohol that it is taking out of us.

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The Mole
The Mole
4 years ago

A well argued point. To be fair you probably need to also account for the public order policing of drunk people spilling out of bars, falling through other peoples windows, drunk driving etc). Then again you probably also need to account for the taxes on the profits made from the selling of the alcohol in pubs, clubs and supermarkets etc. I imagine it is likely that they either balance out, or you’ve got an additional pot of money to fund more stuff (street cleaners and bin men?). That’s before we look at the second order tax revenue – the drinkers… Read more »

4 years ago

That graph only appears to be showing excise duty, with no mention of the additional 20% VAT that’s charged on the sum of the cost of the drink and excise duty.

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