In 2009, CHIPRA increased and equalized federal excise tax rates for cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, and small cigars. Though CHIPRA also increased federal excise tax rates for pipe tobacco and large cigars, it raised the pipe tobacco tax to a rate significantly below the equalized rate for the other products, and its large cigar excise tax can be significantly lower, depending on price. Treasury collects federal excise taxes on tobacco products.
Large federal excise tax disparities among tobacco products, which resulted from the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009, created opportunities for tax avoidance and led to significant market shifts by manufacturers and price sensitive consumers toward the lower-taxed products. Monthly sales of pipe tobacco increased from approximately 240,000 pounds in January 2009 to over 3 million pounds in September 2011, while roll-your-own tobacco dropped from about 2 million pounds to 315,000 pounds. For the same months, large cigar sales increased from 411 million to over 1 billion cigars, while small cigars dropped from about 430 million to 60 million cigars. According to government, industry, and nongovernmental organization representatives, many roll-your-own tobacco and small cigar manufacturers shifted to the lower-taxed products after CHIPRA to avoid paying higher taxes.
While revenue collected for all smoking tobacco products from April 2009 through fiscal year 2011 amounted to $40 billion, GAO estimates that federal revenue losses due to market shifts from roll-your-own to pipe tobacco and from small to large cigars range from about $615 million to $1.1 billion for the same period.Read the full report