Pass-through of Per Unit and ad Valorem Consumption Taxes: Evidence from Alcoholic Beverages in France

  • 1 University of Cergy-Pontoise – THEMA, 33 bd du port, Cergy-Pontoise 95000, France; Sciences-Po, LIEPP, 27 rue des Saints-Pères, Paris 75007, France
Clément Carbonnier

Abstract

Economic theory states that in a market with imperfect competition, per unit consumption taxes should induce a greater increase in prices than ad valorem consumption taxes. This implies that consumers bear a greater share of the tax burden with per unit consumption taxes than that with ad valorem consumption taxes. This article seeks to test this theoretical result empirically using the French market for alcoholic beverages, which is subject to both per unit (excise taxes) and ad valorem (value-added tax, VAT) consumption taxes. Econometric analysis is applied to two consumption tax reforms affecting two distinct French markets for alcoholic beverages, those for beer and for aperitif. In 1995, the full rate of VAT increased from 18.6 to 20.6%; excise taxes on alcoholic beverages increased in 1997. Graphical evidence and econometric results confirm the statements of economic theory. For both classes of alcoholic beverages – beer and aperitif – the change in prices due to per unit excise taxes was significantly larger than that due to ad valorem VAT.

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