Objective: Building on the extensive research literature demonstrating that increasing alcohol prices reduces excessive alcohol consumption and related harms, this article presents the results of a 50-state review of local authority to tax alcohol in the United States.
Method: Between 2013 and 2015, legal databases and government websites were reviewed to collect and analyze relevant statutes, ordinances, and case law. Results reflect laws in effect as of January 1, 2015.
Results: Nineteen states allow local alcohol taxation, although 15 of those have one or more major restrictions on local authority to tax. The types of major restrictions are (a) restrictions on the type of beverage and alcohol content that can be taxed, (b) caps on local alcohol taxes, (c) restrictions on the type of retailer where taxes can be imposed, (d) restrictions on jurisdictions within the state that can levy taxes, and (e) requirements for how tax revenue can be spent.
Conclusions: The number and severity of restrictions on local authority to tax alcohol vary across states. Previous research has shown that increases in alcohol taxes can lead to reduced excessive alcohol consumption, which provides public health and economic benefits. Taxes can also provide funds to support local prevention and treatment services. Local alcohol taxes therefore present an important policy opportunity, both in states that restrict local authority and in states where local authority exists but is underused.