City Councilor Wants Liquor Stores to Charge Sales Tax on Booze

Money generated from the tax would go towards substance abuse programs.

If City Councilor Bill Linehan has his way, buying booze in Boston could get more expensive.

On Monday, Linehan filed for a home rule petition, to the General Court, to introduce a special law so that Boston liquor stores would be forced to charge customers the 6.25 percent state sales tax on alcohol purchases. The proposal would specifically target places that hold “off-premise” licenses.

According to the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, holders of an off-premise license include establishments such as package stores, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

Linehan said in his proposal that the reason he wants to tack on the tax to the sale of alcohol in stores is because “the neighborhoods in [Boston] are experiencing the adverse effects of substance abuse and addictions, which lead to an increase in crime.”

The city councilor wants to siphon the money raised through the taxes and put them toward abuse prevention and treatment programs “… that provide assistance to those individuals suffering from [addiction].”

Here is the language of Linehan’s home rule petition:

Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the City of Boston may impose a local sales tax of 6.25% on the sale of alcoholic beverages sold at package and liquor stores for off-premises consumption. The revenue generated from this tax shall be used to fund prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse in the City of Boston.

The state sales tax on alcohol purchases in-store was repealed in November 2010, and lasted less than a year. In 2009, at the same time elected officials raised the state sale’s tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, they introduced the new tax on alcohol purchases. Soon after, store owners argued that the tax hurt sales, especially for stores on the border of New Hampshire, which has no sales tax, according to Through a ballot initiative petitioned and supported by workers in the distribution industry, the tax was quickly done away with.

Prior to its repeal, like Linehan’s proposal, the tax money generated from the sale of alcohol at liquor stores went towards substance abuse programs statewide.

Linehan’s proposal will be presented at a City Council hearing on Wednesday. Calls to Linehan’s office were not immediately returned. An email request for comment was also not returned.

The city’s legislative body will also vote on a proposal from Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who wants to lift the liquor license cap in Boston to spur economic growth. Pressley’s plan would spread out the locations of businesses that can offer drinks like beer and wine, so that clusters aren’t dominating one neighborhood over another.