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Estimating potential impact of health tax on demand for unhealthy food, beverages and on tax revenue in India - P4H Network

Estimating potential impact of health tax on demand for unhealthy food, beverages and on tax revenue in India

This study evaluates health taxes on unhealthy foods in India. Taxes on high-fat, sugar, or salt foods could reduce demand by 5–24%, boosting government revenues by 12–200% for health initiatives against obesity and non-communicable diseases.

Foods high in fat, sugar or salt are important contributors to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases globally and in India. Health taxes (HTs) have been used by over 70 countries as an effective tool for reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). However, the potential impacts of HTs on consumption and revenues have not been estimated in India.

This paper aims to estimate the potential impact of health taxes on the demand for sugar, SSBs and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) in India while exploring its impact on tax revenues. PE of sugar was estimated using Private Final Consumption Expenditure and Consumer Price Index data while price elasticities for SSBs and HFSS were obtained from literature. The demand reduction was estimated for an additional 10–30% HT added to the current goods and services tax, for varying levels of price elasticities. The results show that for manufacturers of sweets and confectionaries who buy sugar in bulk and assuming a higher price elasticity of −0.70, 20% additional HT (total tax 48%) would result in 13–18% decrease in the demand for sugar used for confectionaries and sweets. For SSBs, HT of 10–30% would result in 7–30% decline in the demand of SSBs. For HFSS food products, 10–30% HT would result in 5–24% decline in the demand for HFSS products.

These additional taxes would increase tax revenues for the government by 12–200% across different scenarios. Taxing unhealthy foods is likely to reduce demand, while increasing government revenues for reinvestment back into public health programmes and policies that may reduce obesity and the incidence of non-communicable diseases in India.