Ross Clark Ross Clark

Will regressive alcohol duties destroy Britain’s drinks industry?

Credit: iStock

What is duty on alcoholic drinks for: to raise revenue or to make us better, more sober people? A close reading of the new duty rates which were announced in the spring budget, but which come into effect today, provide little enlightenment. You can read them for yourself, but here is a summary:

  • On beer or cider less than 3.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) you will pay £9.27 per litre of alcohol in the product. (Wine of that strength would be taxed the same, but it wouldn’t be much of a wine, more a part-fermented grape juice drink.)
  • On beer between 3.5 percent and 8.5 per cent ABV you will pay £21.01 per litre of alcohol. Unless, that is, you are drinking draught beer in a pub, in which case you will pay £19.08 per litre of alcohol.
  • On still cider between 3.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent ABV, on the other hand, you will pay just £9.67 per litre of alcohol.
  • On wine and spirits between 3.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent ABV you will pay £24.77 per litre of alcohol in the product. (If there is such a thing as a spirit of that alcohol concentration – they would have to be watered down to be that strength.)
  • On all alcoholic drinks between 8.5 per cent and 22 per cent ABV you will pay £28.50 per litre of alcohol in the product, while on drinks over 22 per cent ABV this jumps to £31.64.

To try to put some sense into this, it would appear that the government wants us to drink weak beer, but not weak wine. It doesn’t particularly want us drinking wine at all, but prefers wines that have been tinkered with to reduce alcohol content, rather than the proper stuff.

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