In light of HMRC approving relaxed rules for the destruction of unsaleable beer during the Covid-19 outbreak, designated pub staff can now destroy beer remotely, provided they have permission from the owning brewer and follow protocol outlined by the BBPA on 8 April.
“The change in rules allows for duty paid on unsold beer to be recovered, and for the brewer to pass that reclaimed duty back to their pub customer, so long as they follow the protocol,” a statement from pub and beer industry body read.
On 30 March, The Morning Advertiser (MA) reported that duty on out-of-date beer that hasn't been sold due to the Government's lockdown can be claimed back by operators.
“It's about declaring the beer in your cellar as ullage (generally defined as spoiled beer), because if you can report it as ullage, then licensees are in their right to collect duty credit,” a source closely linked to pubs and breweries but who did not want to be named, told MA.
According to new BBPA guidance, a nominated member of pub staff can only destroy beer if they have proof of permission from the owning brewer – for example an email – which includes the product’s name and beer style, strength and identification of all container sizes.
What’s more, the protocol states that the time, date and location – pub name and address – of emptying for each relevant container must be recorded alongside the name and position of the staff member who destroyed the beer, alongside confirmation they were authorised by the person responsible for the pub.
The BBPA also stresses that its guidance does not suggest that normal practices will not resume at a later date.
The full protocol can be accessed via the BBPA’s dedicated Covid-19 web page.
Clear guidance to pubs
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin explained: “HMRC’s decision to provide additional flexibility in these extraordinary times – as the BBPA called for – has been extremely welcome.
“This guidance the BBPA has produced, approved by HMRC, gives clear guidance to pubs on how they should destroy their beer and how they need to record it, ensuring the destruction is safe for staff and done in an environmentally responsible manner.
“Following the guidance will help ensure excise for unsold beer gets back to brewers and credit gets back to pubs, so I urge all licensees and operators to use it.”
Vital to work together
In addition to gaining permission from owning brewers, publicans must also provide brewers with suitable evidence that the destruction has taken place – for example in the form of a video recording.
The Society of Independent Brewers head of policy and public affairs Barry Watts explained: “We cannot stress enough how important it is for any publican or bar owner to first get in touch with the brewery that provided the beer and to work with them on the next steps.
“As the BBPA’s detailed protocol and the guidance from the Government points out, it is key that pubs have the permission of brewers before disposing of any beer in their cellars.
“Pubs and breweries need to ensure that the correct information and evidence is collected to allow the brewery to reclaim beer duty.
“Independent breweries and pubs alike are struggling during the Covid-19 outbreak and it is absolutely vital we work together as an industry to ensure the survival of beer businesses.”