Alcohol tax review proposal ‘good first step’

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Taxing issue: the Tories have pledged to review alcohol tax
Taxing issue: the Tories have pledged to review alcohol tax

Related tags: Beer duty, Tax

Pub trade bodies have welcomed an announcement from the Conservative Party that it would review alcohol taxation if elected again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his party’s manifesto would make a commitment to re-assessing alcohol duty at a whisky distillery in Moray, Scotland, this week.

He said whisky duties may be too high currently and a review would seek to encourage UK drinks producers’ sales and exports. 

The Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) said it would welcome a comprehensive review of alcohol taxation after Brexit.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The current excise duty regime is complex and fails to support UK consumers, UK businesses – especially SMEs – or the exchequer. 

“But a thorough review will take time. In the short term, and in order to maintain the UK’s position at the heart of the world’s wine and spirit trade, the next Chancellor should take immediate action by cutting excise duty ahead of any review. 

“This would benefit UK consumers, support business growth and increase revenue to the exchequer.”

The existing EU framework is unnecessarily complex and a new system must be much simpler, he concluded.

Pub trade bodies said the announcement was a positive start, given that beer duty in the UK was disproportionately high compared to other European brewing nations and consumers often take a hit on prices because of it. 

Encourage pubgoers 

The Campaign for Real Ale Association (CAMRA) national chairman Nik Antona said: “Action on duty is needed to encourage people to drink in pubs, which are supervised community settings, rather than buying cheap alcohol in supermarkets and consuming it at home.

“We welcome this commitment to review alcohol duty. Should it go ahead, we hope it will result in measures that benefit responsible beer drinkers.”

UKHospitality described the duty system as a barrier to growth that had long needed a review.

She said: “This is a positive first step. This is a measure we have been pushing for at UKHospitality. If the Conservatives are successful at the general election, we hope they push forward with this as a matter of urgency.”

UKH would like to see a separate rate for draught beer, wine and spirits sold in pubs, bars and restaurants.

Nicholls said: “A lower rate for on-trade drinks would help lower costs for hospitality businesses and, hopefully, help attract more customers into the on-trade.”

Stimulate growth

She continued: “This could help stimulate growth in high street businesses while making drinking in pubs and bars a more attractive financial prospect than pre-loading, which could help promote healthier attitudes to alcohol.”

Newly instated British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Emma McClarkin said beer tax was a particular burden for pubs with seven out of 10 alcoholic drinks sold being beer.

She said: “It is great news that Boris Johnson has committed to reviewing UK alcohol taxation.

“Three pubs a day close their doors for good. A freeze or cut in beer tax at the next budget would help halt this.

“This commitment from Boris Johnson to review alcohol taxation gives him the opportunity to listen to the 216,000 supporters of the Long Live the Local​ campaign and cut beer tax to support local pubs and the communities they serve.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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