Britons 'unfairly' taxed says SWA

British paying quarter of EU duty on spirits

Julie Hesketh-Laird
Julie Hesketh-Laird: too much duty (photo by Terry Murden – DB Media Services)

Call for Chancellor to act

British drinkers pay more than a quarter of all the tax on spirits collected in Europe, largely because of a domestic tax level far higher than the European average.

The United Kingdom pays 26% of spirits duty collected in the European Union despite having only around 11% of its population.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is using the data to call on the UK government to cut the duty burden facing consumers and producers.

Its analysis shows that on a 70cl bottle of Scotch people in the UK pay £7.74 in excise duty alone, compared to an EU average of £4.40.

It says the figures reveal high levels of tax even before 20% VAT is added to the retail price of whisky.

In total, the price of an average bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK is made up of 77% in tax. Only three countries in the EU tax spirits at a higher rate:  Sweden, Finland and Ireland.

A single 25ml dram of Scotch Whisky includes around 28p of excise duty – more than one penny per millilitre. The EU average is 16p.

The SWA has called for a 2% reduction in excise duty for whisky – less than a penny per dram – in the Budget on 8 March to support consumers and the industry and boost revenue to the UK government.

It argues that, as a hugely important domestic industry that contributes £5 billion to the UK’s economy each year and accounts for 40,000 jobs, more government support is needed to help the the industry invest and grow as it prepares for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The UK government’s own figures reveal that an historic duty cut in 2015 actually led to increased revenue flowing to the Treasury – an additional £123 million in the 12 months following the cut compared to the year preceding the change.

SWA acting chief-executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “British people pay more tax on their Scotch than is fair. This is shown very clearly when compared to other European countries.

“The Chancellor is in a strong position. He can reduce tax on Scotch Whisky, help consumers as the threat of inflation grows and take the opportunity to boost one of the UK’s flagship industries. At the same time, as past experience has shown, this should lead to increased Government revenue.

“This is a common sense decision that could benefit everyone. I hope he listens to a key British industry, assesses the figures and stands up for Scotch.”


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