Friday, 24 February 2012

Duty free

H M Revenue & Customs have released figures suggesting that a tenth of all beer sold in the UK is avoiding duty. Now, that seems like an overestimate to me, and Brigid Simmons of the BBPA agrees. The real figure, I would guess, is probably around half of that. But it’s still a lot of beer, and a lot of lost duty.

Ms Simmons is of course entirely right to argue that the remedy does not lie in imposing further costly and restrictive controls on the legitimate brewing industry, and indeed is staring us in the face:

But we also need to remember a key driver of this tax gap – the eye-watering rates of beer duty in Britain, relative to our neighbours. Britain levies 40% of the entire EU beer duty bill, and over five times more beer tax in total, than the biggest beer market, Germany. It would be totally unfair if a problem driven by punitive rates of tax resulted in more huge costs being heaped onto British brewers.


  1. l can understand spirits but not beer. l brought back 6 litres of JD @£19.50 a litre. ls it worth buying beer when it is still cheap at supermarkets over here? l know little about beer but does supermarket beer have 'not for resale' or something on it?

    As for bringing spirits and beer into UK, HMRC/UKBA show little or no interest in it. Their priority is tobacco/cigarettes. l've had many contacting us about seizures of tobacco/cigarettes but they let them keep the alcohol.

  2. I think a lot of it is "phantom exports" rather than beer actually physically smuggled into the country.

    AIUI beer is still significantly cheaper in Calais, but not so dramatically as it once was.

  3. Agree with SH. Just can't be one tenth of all beer. Supermarket beer from the big five is all Kosher - that's a huge proportion; and then kegs and barrels won't be part of phantom exports. Intersted to know how they estimated this.

  4. Agreed it sounds far too much.

  5. "released figures ...e UK is avoiding duty. "

    Well of course they have. It's entirely in their interests to fiddle the figures to get more money, facilities and employees in order to intercept it. I'm only surprised they settled on such a small percentage figure.


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