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Sin Taxes: When the State Becomes the Sinner

Andrew J. Haile

Elon University School of Law

June 25, 2009

Temple Law Review, Forthcoming
Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-05

To fill budget gaps, several state legislatures have proposed increasing existing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. In addition, some states (as well as the federal government) are considering the enactment of new 'sin taxes,' for example on high sugar drinks and internet pornography. This working paper examines the arguments for and against imposing sin taxes. It argues that the use of sin tax revenues should be limited to ameliorating the problems caused by the 'sinful' product rather than for general governmental purposes. The paper uses the Master Settlement Agreement between the states and major tobacco companies to illustrate the moral hazard that is created when states become dependent on sin tax revenues. Finally, the paper draws out lessons from the states’ experience with taxing tobacco products to identify issues that should be considered as state legislatures weigh whether to enact new sin taxes.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 52

Keywords: sin taxes, Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco, soda tax

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Date posted: June 25, 2009 ; Last revised: September 16, 2009

Suggested Citation

Haile, Andrew J., Sin Taxes: When the State Becomes the Sinner (June 25, 2009). Temple Law Review, Forthcoming; Elon University Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1425621 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1425621

Contact Information

Andrew J. Haile (Contact Author)
Elon University School of Law ( email )
201 N. Greene Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
United States

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