2023 Budget to Include 7.7% Hike on Alcohol

At a bar in Reykjavík Iceland, drinking beer.

In the latest draft of the 2023 budget, a 7.7% increase in alcohol tax is proposed.

Iceland already has some of the highest alcohol taxes in the world, and critics within the restaurant industry claim that the latest tax hikes will make Iceland less attractive as a tourist destination, and put unnecessary stress on an already-struggling industry.

In a report by the Icelandic Federation of Trade, it is stated that under the new tax structure, a common box of wine will increase on average by ISK 600, a bottle of liquor by some ISK 700, and a six-pack of beer some ISK 150.

Especially affected will be alcohol sales in Duty Free, which are currently taxed at the lower rate of 10%. Under the new structure, alcohol taxes will be raised to 25%, a 150% increase. In Duty Free, the same box of wine will increase by ISK 1,800, a bottle of liquor by ISK 2,300, and a six-pack of beer by ISK 240.

In an editorial on Vísir, Aðalgeir Ásvaldsson, director of the Association of Companies in the Restaurant Industry (SVEIT), states that the increased taxes will have to be built into prices, which will in turn contribute to high inflation. Aðalgeir critiqued the new budget plan, saying that high public fees and COVID restrictions have been extremely damaging to the industry which is so important to tourism. “The restaurant industry wants to contribute to society,” Aðalgeir stated. “We offer good food and drinks, create thousands of jobs and play an important role in shaping the culture of the country. We have had to endure much recently, but now enough is enough.”

Currently, 92% of the price of a bottle of liquor comes from state taxes, compared to 73% of the price of a bottle of wine, and 61% of the price of a can of beer.

As the budget draft currently stands, the tax hike on alcohol would represent an increase in ISK 1.64 billion to the treasury, and total income from alcohol tax for 2023 is projected to sit around ISK 25 billion.

The 2023 budget proposal has also come under recent critique for new taxes and fees levied on fuel, road tolls, vehicle imports, and other costs of owning a vehicle in Iceland. The increased taxes will represent a 36% increase in state revenues from transportation, but critics say that the increased prices will hurt the lowest-income Icelanders, with no accompanying expansion of public transportation. Despite the tax increases, however, the budget is still expected to yield a deficit of some ISK 89 billion, an improvement over the previous year’s ISK 169 billion deficit.

Government Approves Measures to Counteract Inflation, Overheating Economy

Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson

In lieu of raising interest rates, the government will be implementing various measures intended to counteract inflation and an overheating economy as well as reducing the treasury deficit. Vísir reports that among the changes proposed by Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson are a reduction to discounts on alcohol and tobacco products sold in airport Duty Free stores and the introduction of tariffs that will offset the current lack of revenue from vehicle and fuel taxation.

The scope of the proposed measures is roughly 0.7% of the GDP, or ISK 26 billion [$1.98 million; €1.88 million]. This amount should hopefully put the treasury in good stead to decrease the deficit without needing to increase interest rates. The proposals will be elaborated in full in the 2023 budget proposal.

Measures intended to increase the state’s revenue

One of the biggest changes is the introduction of tariffs that are meant to offset revenue that the government has lost from vehicle and fuel taxation. This drop in revenue is attributed in part to an increase in environmentally friendly cars. As more environmentally friendly cars become the norm, it is expected that the revenue streams that the government used to enjoy from gasoline and vehicle taxes will continue to decline. As such, a simpler and more efficient revenue collection system is being developed, which corresponds to the need for continued governmental expenditure on new construction, maintenance, and operation of Icelandic roadways.

Another major change will be a reduction in the tax discount on alcohol and tobacco products in Duty Free stores. Both are currently tax-free (in specific, limited quantities) when purchased, for instance, at the Keflavík airport upon entering or exiting the country. There will be a new diversion airport fee and the structure and scope of aquaculture-related VAT will be under review as well.

Measures intended to cut state costs

Current reductions of state-related travel expenses are to be made permanent. The leeway that exists for expenditures in the current budget will be suspended and leeway for general expenditures in policy-related areas will be almost cut in half. There will also be a reduction in contributions to political organizations.