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The "Nip Tax" is not a tax

Posted on
October 26, 2023
First Selectman's Office
At last night's Board of Selectmen meeting, Barbara Syme provided information that is worth repeating, regarding the "nip tax." That's what some people have been calling the surcharge placed on the 50-ml bottles of liquor sometimes called "nippers." Since I'm one of those people, allow me to explain.

The liquor industry has promoted the small bottles heavily in recent years. Currently, some brands are unit-priced lower than the larger bottles: A 750-ml bottle of whisky costs more than 15 50-ml bottles. No one knows exactly why this is, but the results are pretty obvious: roads lined with discarded 50-ml bottles.

That's where the surcharge comes into play. Since October, 2021, the state has required wholesalers to impose a surcharge of 5 cents per 50-ml bottle  on retailers, and to keep track of how many bottles are sold to every store. Every six months, they are required to send the money collected to the towns in which the bottles were sold. In Scotland's case, that means the money paid by our only liquor store--Scotland Spirits--comes back to the town. The law requires towns to use the money to reduce the amount and/or impact of solid waste on the community.

Since the law went into effect, Scotland has received nearly $4,000 in remittances, and we are expecting another payment of about $1,200 in the very near future. That means that Scotland Spirits has sold approximately 100,000 of those bottles in the last two years. That is 135 nips per day if the store were open every day, which it is not. Even without the math, a quick look at the roadside will confirm that people buy a lot of nips. The surcharge is designed to mitigate the impact, while respecting the business owner's right to make a living (and consumers' right to consume in this fashion). 

The BOS has discussed possible uses for the money--paying people to pick up roadside litter, sponsoring a town-wide pickup day, creating a pickup event that includes bands or other entertainment paid for with the fund, but so far we have not implemented any, and as our time draws to a close, it is pretty clear that we won't.

So it will be up to the incoming BOS to figure this out. They will have their hands full with other matters, so any help you can provide--ideas, plans, volunteering--would be greatly appreciated. After Nov. 7, the firstselectman@scotlandct.org email address will go to the new First Selectman. Any ideas you have should be sent there. 

Thanks to Scotland Spirits for paying the surcharge and keeping us informed. Let's return the favor by figuring out how to use the money the store has provided (and of course by patronizing our local business).