Using Beer To Explain How Tax Concessions Work

Let’s put tax concessions for superannuation in terms everyone can understand.

Suppose that every night, ten men go to their favorite bar for a few beers. The tab for all tenBeer Fund
comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like

  • The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
  • The fifth would pay $1.
  • The sixth would pay $3.
  • The seventh $7.
  • The eighth $12.
  • The ninth $18.
  • The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every night and seemed quite happy with the
arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.

“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your nightly tab by $20.”

So, now drinks for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their tab the way we pay our taxes.  So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.

But what about the other six, the paying customers?

How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share’?

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being ‘PAID‘ to drink beer!

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

  • The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
  • The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
  • The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
  • The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
  • The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
  • The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once drunk and outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man “but he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than me!”

“That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up at the bar, so the nine sat down and drank without him. But when it came time to pay the tab, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money  between all of them for even half of the tab!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and Mr Freydenberg, Mr Shorten and Mr Morrison and his shadow Mr Bowen, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction or concession like the Superannuation contribution tax rate. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up to pick up the tab anymore.

In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

“everyone will worry about the poor people in the wagon and not about the people pulling the wagon, until there are no more people to pull the wagon!”

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible

This article has been adapted to Australian circumstances and is based on what is believed to have originally been a letter to the Chicago Tribune by a Mr Don Dodson in March 2001 (Source )

As always please contact me if you want to look at your own particular situation as we specialise in plain English strategies. We have offices in Castle Hill and Windsor but can meet clients anywhere in Sydney or via Skype.

Liam Shorte B.Bus SSA™ AFP

Financial Planner & SMSF Specialist Advisor™

SMSF Specialist Adviser 

 Follow SMSFCoach on Twitter Liam Shorte on Linkedin NextGen Wealth on Facebook   

Verante Financial Planning

Tel: 02 98941844, Mobile: 0413 936 299

PO Box 6002 BHBC, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153

5/15 Terminus St. Castle Hill NSW 2154

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This information has been prepared without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. This website provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such.

Leave a comment


  1. Matthew Ripley

     /  April 4, 2013

    Thanks for adapting to the Australian marketplace. As per plan4goals, may I reproduce?


  2. This is really good – can I reproduce?

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Of course you can Gareth, the more people that understand we need everyone contributing to the tax system for it to work the better. By alienating the higher income earners and driving them into “tax effective” onshore or offshore schemes and tax havens the worse for the man in the street as he will carry more of the burden of funding government spending.


  1. How tax concessions work – using beer and 10 men to explain

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