The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has been informed by the Treasury that the Chancellor will collect March's beer duty, that is due to be debited today, which would have allowed businesses “to invest in their survival” amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
This is despite trade bodies calling on Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to unilaterally cancel payments in the face of decimated sales following pub closures.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “We urged the Chancellor to cancel the imminent beer duty bill, to allow businesses to use funds to invest in their survival. The decision not to act on duty is extremely disappointing.
“Make no mistake, this is a huge blow to Britain’s world-class brewing industry that has been devastated in the past week.
“Cancelling the duty payment due on 25 March would have freed up cash for many hard-squeezed pub and brewing businesses, helping them get through this difficult period while saving jobs.
“Brewers are being encouraged to phone the HMRC’s helpline if they have concerns over paying their duty bill, but with answer rates on the helpline so low, it is a lottery as to those who get through and receive the additional support they need at this time.”
Accounts debited tomorrow
The Society of Indepedent Brewers (SIBA) said the average small brewer will be landed with a beer duty bill of around £5,000, but for larger independent breweries in the UK it could be as much as £500,000.
SIBA chief executive James Calder said: “SIBA has been calling for the cancellation of beer duty for over a week and it is incredibly disappointing the Chancellor has decided not to act, given he knows how poor the answer rate and experience on the helpline is.
“The Chancellor has left brewers with few options if they are unsuccessful in [getting through on] the helpline. There will be brewers tomorrow who will have thousands of pounds direct debited from their accounts by HMRC. This is a huge blow for the UK’s small independent brewers.”
Chance of surviving
In response to the Chancellor's decision not to cancel beer duty, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) national chairman Nik Antona said: “CAMRA is disappointed to hear that the Chancellor has decided not to cancel beer duty in light of the current Covid-19 situation.
“This could have meant the difference between many hundreds of independent breweries standing a chance of surviving this crisis, or closing their operations permanently and never reopening.
“Many brewers were already faced with the difficult challenge of trying to continue to run their businesses and retain staff, in order to allow customers across the country enjoy great beer – one of the small pleasures still available to people.
“The postponement or cancellation of beer duty could have helped keep some of these small, independent businesses open and trading online, rather than see thousands of pounds sent to HMRC.”