How does a change in the excise tax on beer impact beer retail prices in South Africa?

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University of Cape Town


This paper uses price data, collected by Statistics South Africa, to estimate the effect of a change in the excise tax on the retail price of beer. We find strong evidence that the excise tax on beer is overshifted to consumers. The pass-through coefficient is estimated at 4.83 (95% CI: 4.02; 5.64) for lager, and at 4.77 (95% CI: 4.04; 5.50) for all beer (which includes dark beer). This implies that for every R1/unit increase in the excise tax, the retail price increases by about R4.80/unit. Of the 23 brand-packaging combinations considered, the pass-through coefficients vary between 2.39 and 10.05 (median = 5.30). The majority of the price change in response to a tax change occurs immediately, and prices have fully adjusted two months after the excise tax increase becomes effective. Pass-through differs substantially across packaging types. The pass-through coefficient on 750ml bottles is substantially lower than that of 330 ml (or 340 ml) cans and 6 x 330 ml (or 6 x 340 ml) “six-packs”. The overshifting of the excise tax has positive implications for public health policy, since they increase the effectiveness of alcohol taxes as a tool to reduce the (excessive) consumption of beer.