“Braced for chaos!” “Tangle of red tape!” “Bedlam!”

The headlines were hard to ignore when England introduced a 5p tax on plastic bags in October 2015. Certain tabloids whipped themselves into a frenzy over the introduction of the scheme, scaremongering us into thinking the 5p tax was an awful piece of legislation, and not the cost-cutting, forcing-us-to-be-more-organised rule that could potentially have a positive environmental impact.

Out of every 5p charged, 0.83p is VAT. The treasury predict an estimated income of £19 million annually from the VAT charged on the bags. It’s up to the retailer what they do with the additional money – here’s hoping that the big name supermarkets and grocery stores will donate their additional remaining revenue to charity.

If you’re anything like me, you’re now desperately trying to remember to take old plastic bags with you when you hit up the shops. Not just because you’re a tight-wad, but believe in recycling, reusing and have some level of consideration for the environment.

If a 5p price-hike can drive us to be more organised, are there other taxes that could potentially be altered to challenge or shape our behaviour?

Fags

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve tried to quit smoking. Most recently I lasted four months. I tracked how many minutes, days and hours I’d been puff-free for on a handy app called Quit That, and after caving in to the craving, the app told me I’d saved a hefty £230.

A packet of 20 cigs costs approximately £7.13 and 83% of this is tax, according to a study by Full Fact. If I had spent that two hundred and thirty smackers on fags, an astounding £190.90 would have been paid in duty and VAT – and that’s just in four months.

According to the Tobacco Manufactures Association, tax on tobacco provides the UK government with £12.3 billion in revenue annually. The tax on tobacco has risen consistently and in turn the amount of smokers has fallen. 18.7% of the adult population of the UK now smoke, compared to 45% in 1974.

There may be other contributing factors that have lead to a decrease in the amount of smokers. For example hard-hitting advertising campaigns, the popularity of e-cigarettes and changes in display rules. Yet the continued taxation of cigarettes is a likely influence on whether people continue to light up.

Sweets

Sugar is being touted as one of the many reasons why we’re all a bit podgy and could die early.

Linked to obesity in children, teeth rotting and type 2 diabetes, sugar has been dubbed “empty calories” because it contains no nutritional benefits. Cutting down on how much sugar we consume could be achieved by the introduction of a ‘sugar tax’ – ideally of around 10-20%, according to a recent report by the government’s advisory group, Public Health England.

“Research studies and impact data from countries that have already taken action suggest that price increases, such as by taxation, can influence purchasing of sugar-sweetened drinks and other high-sugar products, at least in the short term, with the effect being larger at higher levels of taxation.” – Public Health England report.

But D-Cam isn’t happy. According to a spokesperson for the Conservative party, David can think of “better ways” to tackle obesity in the UK. But what would happen if a 20% taxation on sugar was introduced? Would paying more to rot your insides deter you from purchasing sugar-laced food stuffs?

Brighton is trialing a 10p voluntary ‘sugar tax’ on fizzy drinks, in a bid to reduce the £80 million NHS costings for diet-related illnesses in Brighton & Hove. Supported by everyone’s favourite wide-boy Jamie Oliver, the initiative also plans to ensure healthy snacks are available in vending machines and food education is introduced into every primary school. Sounds like a promising step forward.

There isn’t a guideline on how much sugar per day we should be looking to consume. However, estimates come in at around 90g a day – that’s 22 small teaspoons of sugar, or almost two and a half cans of fizzy drink. A higher tax rate would add “about 7-14p” to the price of a full-calorie fizzy drink. If you drank two and a half cans of fizzy pop daily (which I know a lot of people who do) you’re likely to be out of pocket a maximum of £127.75 a year.

Mexico City has successfully implemented and run the ‘sugar tax’ scheme. The tax has seen purchase rate of sugary drinks fall by as much as 12% in 2015. Campaigners in South America are now looking to increase the VAT to 20%, and cut the VAT on bottled water making it more affordable and a healthy alternative to sugar-laden cans of pop.

If the Brighton sugar tax proves successful, we could see the levy applied nationwide. This would result in saving the NHS £500 million annually, and potentially save the lives of many.

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Fuel

Who remembers the ‘petrol crisis’ of the early 00’s? Probably many of you. Roads were blocked and pumps boycotted (dump the pump!) all in the name of protesting against the rising cost of fuel in the UK.

According to the Government, there are over 45 million drivers license holders in Britain, meaning that potentially 70% of the population have a car, van or motorcycle of some kind. Whilst that figure is shocking (think of the air pollution!) the amount that petrol buyers pay in tax is even more eye-opening.

An RAC report found that 61% of every litre of unleaded fuel goes straight back to the Government, and 59% of diesel goes into the Gov pocket. In 2014/15 a whopping £27 billion was collected by the treasury in fuel tax, making each of our 45 million drivers contribution an average of £600 a year. Brits are taxed the highest rate in Europe, despite fuel duty being frozen since 2011.

Surprisingly the taxation of running a vehicle, even post-recession, didn’t deter drivers. The amount of cars on the road has rise steadily since 2009. Are there other incentives Governments and businesses can do to get more people using private transport? Renationalise the railways, perhaps or give more promotion to Cycle To Work Schemes?

In an ideal world we’d all stop doing the things that are bad for both ourselves and the environment; recycle bags, quit smoking, eat less sugar and look at alternative flow-absorption methods. However, my feeling is that no amount of taxation will curtail habits that are hard to break – especially addiction based ones.