Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

The global context for public health nutrition taxation

Anne Marie Thowa1 c1, Peter Heywooda2, Stephen Leedera1 and Lee Burnsa3

a1 Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Victor Coppleson Building (D02), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

a2 Department of International Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

a3 Department of Taxation Law, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Abstract

Objective To assess critically the scope for public health nutrition taxation within the framework of the global tax reform agenda.

Design Review of the tax policy literature for global policy priorities relevant to public health nutrition taxation; critical analysis of proposals for public health nutrition taxation judged against the global agenda for tax reform.

Setting The global tax reform agenda shapes decisions of tax policy makers in all countries. By understanding this agenda, public health nutritionists can make feasible taxation proposals and thus improve the development, uptake and implementation of recommendations for nutrition-related taxation.

Results The priorities of the global tax reform agenda relevant to public health nutrition taxation are streamlining of taxes, adoption of value-added tax (VAT), minimisation of excise taxes (except to correct for externalities) and removal of import taxes in line with trade liberalisation policies. Proposals consistent with the global tax reform agenda have included excise taxes, extension of VAT to currently exempted (unhealthy) foods and tariff reductions for healthy foods.

Conclusions Proposals for public health nutrition taxation should (i) use existing types and rates of taxes where possible, (ii) use excise taxes that specifically address externalities, (iii) avoid differential VAT on foods and (iv) use import taxes in ways that comply with trade liberalisation priorities.

(Received October 21 2009)

(Accepted June 02 2010)

(Online publication August 16 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email annemarie.thow@sydney.edu.au

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