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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Claim that Oregon has nation's lowest beer tax is false

The statement

"We have the lowest beer tax in the nation."

Oregon state Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland, Jan. 15 in a work session

The ruling

Does Oregon have the lowest beer tax in the country? PolitiFact Oregon checked.

We called Scott Drenkard, an economist with the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group in Washington, D.C. Its website includes a weekly map of the United States showing beer tax rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Drenkard, noting that the statistics are drawn from another group, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said Oregon ranks 45th nationally with consumers paying a tax rate of 8 cents a gallon of beer. That comes out to just under 4 cents tacked on to the price of a six-pack.

The rate puts Oregon behind only Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Wyoming, which has a 2 cent-a-gallon beer tax.

Tennessee, by contrast, ranks first at $1.17 per gallon. Alaska's $1.07 is second.

Monroe, contacted via email for a response, wrote: "If you add in the sales tax, Oregon has the lowest. The states that are lower than Oregon have a sales tax. When you add the sales tax to the beer tax the total is higher than Oregon."

According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, a Washington, D.C., tax-research group, Monroe is correct when it comes to sales taxes. Oregon is one of nine states that do not have a sales tax.

However, general sales taxes apply to most retail items, not just beer. We called Drenkard back to get his thoughts.

"Sales taxes do affect the price of beer, but it's not a beer-specific tax," he said, noting that 20 states do impose additional taxes pertaining specifically to malted beverages. "Then again, corporate taxes also affect the price of goods, including beer. Should we add those in as well? Where do you draw a line?"

Oregon, according to a national group that tracks beer taxes, has one of the lowest such rates in the county. The 8-cents-a-gallon rate, sixth-lowest nationally, has remained unchanged since 1978.

But Monroe claimed that Oregon has the lowest beer tax in the United States.

Later, he tried to justify that assertion by saying it's the lowest if Oregon's lack of a sales tax is taken into account. He didn't make that specification in his original statement, though, and sales taxes aren't specific to beer. We rate his claim False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Oregon.

PolitiFact: Claim that Oregon has nation's lowest beer tax is false 02/07/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 7, 2014 3:53pm]
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