Utah liquor taxes 9th highest in the nation, study says

Drinking • Utah taxes highest in the Western states; Wyoming the lowest.
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Utah consumers pay among the highest liquor taxes per drink in the nation, ranking ninth in a new state-by-state study by NerdWallet.

For the study, analysts at the personal finance website looked at the taxes consumers pay per drink in all 50 states.

Residents in Washington pay the highest liquor taxes per drink: 7.1 cents for every beer, 3.4 cents for a glass of wine and a whopping 41.3 cents for every shot of whiskey or other spirit-filled cocktail.

Alabama ranked second, followed by Alaska, Oregon and Virginia.

Researchers ranked Utah ninth, saying imbibers pay a 3.8-cent tax on every bottle or glass of beer and 13.2-cent tax on every cocktail. Researchers did not include a per-drink tax on Utah wine saying it's difficult to distinguish between taxes, fees and mark-ups in states where the government controls liquor sales.

Alex McAdams, strategy associate with NerdWallet, said the whole point of the study is to educate consumers about how much of their hard-earned cash goes to pad the state treasury coffers.

"Taxes are often this big scary thing that consumers don't understand," he said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. "We try to bring that down to earth and have it apply to everyday decisions that people make like buying liquor."

Among surrounding Western states, Utah has the highest liquor tax rate, the NerdWallet numbers show. Wyoming has the lowest liquor taxes in the nation. Residents there pay less than one cent on beer and spirits, according to the report.

Colorado is also one of the five states with the lowest liquor taxes.

McAdams said researchers calculated the data by combining tax rates gathered from the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and consumption rates provided by a the National Association on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Because the data was collected from other sources there was no margin of error.

Not surprisingly, McAdams said the study showed a correlation between low tax rates and more liberal state liquor policies. He pointed to Missouri and Colorado, both of which, for example, lack any laws banning open containers.