Report: COVID-19 pandemic driving alcohol sales in Wisconsin

A new report suggests people are buying dramatically more alcohol as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

Revenue from state excise taxes on alcohol during the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $73.8 million, up almost 17% from $63.3 million the previous year, according to preliminary data from the state Department of Revenue cited in the report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum.

If the preliminary data holds, the increase would be the biggest percentage increase the state has seen since 1972, the report said. The percentage increase in alcohol tax collection exceeded 2.4% in only one year between 2009 and 2020, the report said.

Alcohol excise taxes in Wisconsin are based on the volume sold, not price. Beer is taxed at about 6.5 cents per gallon. Wine is taxed at 25 cents per gallon if it has an alcohol content of 14% or less.

The report did not examine sales tax revenue on alcohol.

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Most states have seen a bump in alcohol tax revenues during fiscal year 2021. The report said increased alcohol consumption is "perhaps unsurprising" given rising stress over personal health, job losses, school challenges and a lack of leisure activities during the pandemic.

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