New Thai tax law set to double alcohol prices

A parody cartoon by ไข่แมว Facebook page

In response to a new tax law that doubles the tax rate on Thai liquor, Thai social media has questioned whether the ruling junta has exhausted its budget.
On 26 February 2017, Thansettakij published a summary of new regulations that will tax liquor based on its alcohol content.
Under the new regulations, which are based on wholesale rather than retail prices, the tax ceiling of beer with 7 per cent alcohol is increased from 46.50 baht to 178 baht per bottle.

The rate of wine tax will be shifted from between 225 and 2,100 baht to between 519 and 1,482 baht per bottle. White spirits with 40 per cent alcohol, which is a popular drink among the working class class, will be taxed 277 baht per bottle, an increase from the current rate of 137.5 baht per bottle.
Somchai Poonsawat, the Director General of the Excise Department, stated that the new excise law aims at standardising the prices of alcohol products. The current system taxes liquor according to prices set by retailers, which Somchai alleges results in excessive prices.
“The goal of the new excise tax is fairness, transparency and to reduce the discretion of retailers. It won’t create a burden for consumers. Retailers cannot arbitrary increase prices under the new regulations,” said Somchai.
The Thansettakij report went viral, creating outrage on Thai social media. Many allege the junta is implementing the new tax because its finances are in crisis.
“[The junta] is broke and doesn’t know how to find money. So they the come up with a brilliant idea, exploiting morality to increase alcohol taxes. They will also be credited for reducing the number of drinkers because people cannot afford alcohol,” read one comment on social media.
“[The junta] keeps saying the economy is good but constantly increase taxes,” read another.
Somchai has elaborated that the Excise Department set the new ceilings based on its own data of wholesale prices. If retailers complain that the data is outdated, the department is willing to host a public hearing.
He also emphasised that the stated taxes are the maximum under the new ceiling. He promised the new regulation will not significantly affect current prices.

-Prachatai English