The WSTA has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to prove he’s not a Scrooge ahead of the 2017 Budget on 22 November. Two days before the announcement, the trade body sent an actor dressed as Charles Dickens’ cold-hearted miser, wearing a mask of Hammond’s face, to the Treasury urging the Chancellor to reduce the cost of getting into the Christmas spirits.
With 53.3% of consumer cash going straight to the taxman this year, stocking up for Christmas has never been more expensive. In response, the WSTA took to the streets outside the Treasury to voice their concerns over Hammond’s plans for a second increase in a year, and call on the Chancellor to freeze wine and spirit duty. The WSTA joins a group of 50 MPs and several bodies such as the British Beer & Pub Association and the Scotch Whisky Association in calling for an industry-friendly Budget this week.
Having increased alcohol duty by 3.9% in his Spring Budget in March, it is suggested that there’s a further 3.4% hike in the offing this week, which would mean this year’s basket of Christmas booze would cost £4.40 more in duty and VAT than last year.
The WSTA has calculated that should Hammond go ahead with his planned increase in line with RPI inflation, he would climb the league table of tipple-tackling Chancellors. These rankings, based on average annual duty increase, would put Hammond in fourth place for wine – behind only Geoffrey Howe, Alistair Darling and John Major – and second only to John Major for spirits.
Based on calculations of a typical festive season shop – five bottles of wine, two bottles of Champagne, two bottles of sparkling wine, three bottles of spirits, two bottles of port, 24 cans of beer and 12 ciders – British consumers are paying over the odds, especially when compared to their French counterparts for example.
The typical French Christmas booze-run costs £27 less than it does on this side of the English Channel, with just £46 going to the taxman – 32% of their overall shop compared to 53.5% in the UK.
WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “Comparing the wine and spirit tax regime in the UK to that in France puts the UK’s excessively high rate of excise duty firmly in the spotlight. The Treasury will be taking more money than ever off of British businesses and consumers this Christmas if planned duty hikes go ahead.
"A second rise this year will hit businesses hard at a time when they are dealing with higher costs through rising inflation, meeting the challenge of Brexit and decreasing consumer confidence. This will be particularly hard for our industry, its suppliers and consumers, to swallow, coming in the middle of the trade’s busiest period – Christmas.
"The Chancellor can avoid being labelled a Scrooge this Christmas by freezing wine and spirit duty at tomorrow’s (Wednesday 22 November) Budget.”
The inflationary increases are part of a Government policy planned to span the duration of this parliament and would see the Government claim £1.9bn over the next five years.