The U.S. Government Taxes Alcoholic Beverages

This is from a series of pages on sources of federal war spending other than the federal income tax and strategies that war tax resisters can use to reduce their support of the government in these areas.

The Excise Tax on Alcoholic Beverages


All alcoholic beverages sold in the United States, except home-brewed beer and wine or bootlegged liquor, have federal excise taxes applied to their manufacture.

Amount of the Tax

ProductTax rate
distilled spirits$13.50 per gallon
wine or champagne$1.07–$3.40 per gallon (depending on type and alcohol content)
hard cider$0.226 per gallon
beer$18 per barrel (a barrel is somewhat under 31 gallons), or, in the case of small brewers (less than two million barrels per year), $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels

Small wineries (fewer than 250,000 gallons per year) have lower tax rates, with the smallest (fewer than 150,000 gallons per year) at the lowest end of the scale.

In addition, the federal government applies “occupational taxes” to wineries, bottlers, distillers, breweries, wholesalers, retailers, and other premises associated with alcoholic beverages.

How Much the Government Collects

In 2008, the federal government collected $9.5 billion from federal excise taxes on alcoholic beverages.

How This Tax Is Collected

The manufacturer or importer is responsible for paying the tax.

Are the Tax Receipts Earmarked?

These taxes go into the federal government’s general fund.

How Can You Resist This Tax?

Obviously, you can avoid contributing to taxes on alcoholic beverages by not purchasing, manufacturing, selling, or drinking them.

It is also legal under federal law and most state laws to brew your own wine, beer, or cider, so long as you stay under 100 gallons per year (200 gallons if there is more than one adult in your household). You are not required to pay federal excise tax on such home brew that you consume yourself.

You can also bring a small quantity of alcoholic beverages back from a foreign country without being required to pay an import duty.

You can also distill your own spirits at home (moonshine, “bathtub gin”), but this is not legal.

See Also

From the Florence [Alabama] Times:

Merchants to Defy Taxers

Gadsden Men Vote To Pay Nothing

Merchants of Gadsden will absolutely refuse to pay any state gross receipts tax or collect any sales tax from the people, according to unanimous vote of a large number of them who met here .

Meanwhile Governor Bibb Graves at Montgomery said he had instructed the state tax commission not to collect the gross receipts tax on the sales of new and used automobiles, cotton or cottonseed when the levy becomes effective on .

Spokesmen for the Gadsden merchants who met said they were ready to defy arrest and carry their fight to the highest courts.

An article several months earlier from The Tuscaloosa News mentioned that Alabama pharmacists had met in Montgomery and announced that they would refuse to collect or pay the tax.