Why booze could get even pricier in Sweden

Why booze could get even pricier in Sweden
A Swede buying alcohol at Systembolaget. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Taxes on beer, wine and spirits could go up in 2017, as part of government efforts to raise almost 400 million kronor ($50 million).

Sweden already has one of the the highest tax rates on food and alcohol in Europe, but your trips to the state-run alcohol monopoly could have you digging even deeper into your wallet than before.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson presented the idea at a press conference when she handed over the Social Democrat-Green government's spring budget proposal to parliament on Wednesday.

Swedes enjoy the highest spirits duty in the EU and among the biggest taxes on beer and wine, according to a recent report. Called the Nanny State Index, they survey looked at how much of an influence European governments have on their citizens' drinking, smoking and eating habits, and ranked Sweden second.

READ ALSO: Sweden second worst in EU for boozing

The price increase would apply from the start of 2017. If it gets the go-ahead, a can of beer will cost 0.25 kronor more than it does today, a bottle of wine for 65-70 kronor will cost around one krona more and a litre of vodka will go up by a few kronor.

The government hopes the new taxes would raise 390 million kronor next year and argues that health among low-earners in particular would increase as a result of a decrease in alcohol consumption.

“A general increase in price could thus mean less inequality when it comes to alcohol-related injuries,” wrote the finance ministry.

Sweden cashed in 13.8 billion kronor on alcohol tax revenue in 2015. Meanwhile, the negative side effects of alcohol are estimated to cost society some 66 billion a year, according to a key inquiry on substance abuse put forward by Sweden's previous centre-right government in 2011.

And Johnny Mostacero, who is the head of Sweden's IOGT-NTO which works to reduce overall alcohol consumption, welcomed the government's decision.

“It is of course great that the government takes the alcohol issue seriously and that they use that tool – price – which is the most effective when it comes to affecting total consumption,” he told the Accent magazine.

But Sweden's largest organization for importers of wine and other spirits, Sprit- och vinleverantörsföreningen (SVL), was critical.

“We are very concerned about what the proposal would lead to in terms of illegal imports and smuggling,” said CEO Erika Nylander in a press statement.

Sweden currently has a 1.94 kronor tax per litre on beer, 25.17 kronor per litre on wine and 255.74 kronor on spirits with a 40 percent alcohol content.

In Sweden, all governments have the chance to revise their annual budget each spring, to adapt to events or economic changes that have emerged since the start of that year.

The current centre-left coalition faces among other things the challenge of raising money to fund the 500 million kronor it wants to invest in integration measures, to help a record number of asylum seekers arriving in Sweden last year quickly get established in the community.