Objective: To estimate the potential health benefits and cost savings of an alcohol tax rate that applies equally to all alcoholic beverages based on their alcohol content (volumetric tax) and to compare the cost savings with the cost of implementation.
Design and setting: Mathematical modelling of three scenarios of volumetric alcohol taxation for the population of Australia: (i) no change in deadweight loss, (ii) no change in tax revenue, and (iii) all alcoholic beverages taxed at the same rate as spirits.
Main outcome measures: Estimated change in alcohol consumption, tax revenue and health benefit.
Results: The estimated cost of changing to a volumetric tax rate is $18 million. A volumetric tax that is deadweight loss-neutral would increase the cost of beer and wine and reduce the cost of spirits, resulting in an estimated annual increase in taxation revenue of $492 million and a 2.77% reduction in annual consumption of pure alcohol. The estimated net health gain would be 21 000 disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), with potential cost offsets of $110 million per annum. A tax revenue-neutral scenario would result in an 0.05% decrease in consumption, and a tax on all alcohol at a spirits rate would reduce consumption by 23.85% and increase revenue by $3094 million. All volumetric tax scenarios would provide greater health benefits and cost savings to the health sector than the existing taxation system, based on current understandings of alcohol-related health effects.