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Liquor sales up despite high sales tax

Store manager Todd Young smiles as he restocks tequila at a Costco warehouse store in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It's been three months since private stores started selling liquor in Washington and sales are up 10-percent over the same three months of last year.

"We need to look at the next two or three months to see what that looks like over time. At least in the first three months compared to the previous fiscal year, 10.2 percent overall," says Rick Garza, deputy director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

He says Washington is losing sales to Idaho and Oregon, and most of that can be attributed to the high taxes on liquor.

In fact, Oregon's liquor control board says June and July sales at stores near the border were up $1.5 million compared to the same time last year.

The Wall Street Journal says since Initiative 1183 went into effect on June 1, the state Department of Revenue reported the price of liquor rose 17 percent from a year earlier.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that tracks tax rates including sales taxes in states across the U.S., says that Washington liquor taxes were the highest in the country.

Consumers currently pay $13.50 per gallon in federal excise taxes and $3.77 per liter in state taxes, which were present under the old state-owned system. As of June 1, individuals must also pay a new 20.5 percent liquor tax on all purchases.

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