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Dec 30, 2012 10:52 AM

Highest and Lowest State Liquor Taxes - I NEED TO MOVE!!!

I found a graphic in the Wall Street Journal a couple of months back that listed the highest and lowest state excise-tax rates per gallon. As someone that tries to find cheap booze prices, I found this information very helpful (and depressing, since I live in Michigan).

Washington - $26.70
Oregon - $23.03
Virginia - $20.91
Alabama - $18.61
Michigan - $13.24

New Hampshire - $0
Vermont - $.32
Wyoming - $.83
Montana - $2.00
Colorado - $2.28

So, do the states with the lowest taxes listed above actually have the lowest liquor prices? (This may be a dumb question, but I'm not sure what else goes into pricing liquor other than state excise-tax, so I'm asking anyway.)

Article here:

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  1. When we lived in upstate NY everyone went over to New Hampshire to stock up, because there were no taxes. But it didn't seem to be that much cheaper unless you brought a tractor trailer! And here we have Indian (sorry Native American I think?) reservations for cheap cigarettes which are half the price without tax. What each individual place decides to do with their base price is up to them, and if they want to advertise out of their area then that's their privilige. At least where I am, the prices vary store to store, and you can shop around. But I know states that do have state run stores so hard to say, in general.

    1. I'm surprised New Jersey is not on the high list....

      2 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        I'm sure that's just a sample of the highest.

        1. re: fourunder

          When I lived in NJ, it used to be low. That was decades ago, and I know they've raised them a lot since then. Sad.

          But, taxes aren't the only factor in pricing. NH has no alcohol tax, but all the stores are state run, and I don't find the pricing that much better than MA (which is pretty high, though not top five). Plus the selection is not that great. Point being, there are better reasons to be depressed about living in Michigan.

        2. It's kind of like buying in duty-free shops. A lot of the time, despite the lack of taxes, the price is jacked up so you won't save much, if anything. New Hampshire does have pretty low prices on a lot of things, but it is certainly possible to find things cheaper in MA from time to time if you go to the right store. Plus NH only sells liquor in state-run stores so the state is taking in the profits in lieu of excise taxes, thus making it an unfair comparison. Also, you won't find the same kind of selection you would in a private-market state.

          California has pretty low prices (check the bevmo site) and it still has middle of the road taxes.

          1. I presume the OP is not serious about moving . . . can't imagine anyone drinking so much in distillates that it's worth moving for.

            That said, the article itself tells of people driving from Washington to Oregon for cheaper liquor . . . I have some experience with that.

            For many years I worked for Liquor Barn, a chain of 104 stores -- the pre-cursor to BevMo -- based in California, but with 16 stores (IIRC) in Arizona. The northernmost store we had was located in Redding, CA -- 137 miles from Ashland, OR, the first town of any size in that state. That one store would go through approximately 400-500 cases (6/1.75L) of Black Velvet Canadian Whisky every month. People from Oregon would drive down in motor homes and buy 25+ cases at a time, and then drive back north. They'd buy for their friends, family members, neighbors . . . it was a little scary!

            The grass is always greener . . . Washington people now drive to Oregon; Oregon people still drive to California . . . whatever.

            2 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              A field trip to load up on Black Velvet? Wow.

              1. re: zin1953

                " Oregon people still drive to California . . . whatever."
                Yes we do, it is only a 20 mile round trip for me. Huge savings even with Ca sales tax.

              2. Wow, I'm shocked that Massachusetts isn't on the list.

                I used to subscribe to a "best wines under $10" blog based out of New York City, and every time I went to buy one of the recommendations the wine cost me, IIRC, between $14 and $18 here in Taxachusetts. Similarly, when I see discussions of spirits prices around the country I often notice that I seem to be paying a lot more.