Drinking is EXPENSIVE in London

19 Sep
2012

Damn, wine’s expensive here. Booze is expensive too. Let’s do some maths. (Things get pluraled oddly over here. “Horsepowers” is  a legit term.)

Whiskey and ginger ale in a can for £2.50 ($4.06), a deal.

Whiskey and ginger ale in a can for £2.50 ($4.06), a deal.

In California, where we found the cheapest wine on our trip, they sell Two Buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s– a bottle of Charles Shaw wine for $2. Converted into £s, that’s £1.23 (the current exchange rate is £1 = $1.60). Now, we know we’re not in California. Everywhere else in America, Two Buck Chuck is $3 or £1.84. Yes, it’s cheap wine. It’s not wonderful wine. But it’s wine. You can buy it. You can drink it. It’s available.

Pretty much the cheapest bottle of wine we’ve seen over here is £5.99 — $9.74. We saw Paul Masson, the cheapo wine that comes in a carafe for that much. Even the most rip-off grocery store in America won’t sell that swill for half that price. Something is going on. Luckily, we have internets.

In the UK, every bottle of wine, every bottle of any sort of alcohol, is subject to an excise tax. The excise tax on a bottle of wine is £1.90. That’s over $3! That’s more that the cheapest bottle of wine in America — just in tax alone. On EVERY bottle. You might not notice $3 extra on a bottle of Bollinger, but it practically doubles the cost of a cheaper bottle.

But wait, there’s more.

On every bottle of booze sold in the UK, an excise tax of £7.04 is applied. That’s $11.44. Again, more than the cost of a cheap bottle of booze in America just on taxation alone.

But here’s the kicker — on top of this, the UK adds its VAT (value-added tax) of 20%. And we thought Chicago’s 11% sales tax was steep!

The VAT is applied after everything else, so a $3 bottle of Chuck becomes $3 for the bottle + $3 for the excise tax = $6 to start. Then it is $6 * 1.20 for the VAT =  $7.20 … for Two Buck Chuck. Brutal.

Let’s do the same for a $8 bottle of Old Crow: ($8 + $11.44) * 1.20 = $23.33 for a bottle of Old Crow. OMFG.

And don’t forget — those are American products, so they’d be subject to customs duty as well. Wonderful!

Soooo … this post is about how we’ll be switching to beer and cider for the remainder of the trip. It is also to explain my frustration with these sorts of tax policies. In my booze bracket, around 60% of my money is going towards taxation instead of product. If I drank $200 bottles of Bordeaux and $300 bottles of Scotch, I’d be paying closer to 25% in taxes on each bottle instead. Pity the poor drinker. What’s a non-working man to do?