British drinks companies call for temporary alcohol duty suspension

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

24 March 2020

Ahead of tomorrow's due date, a rising number of British wine and spirit companies have signed an open letter to the chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, calling on a reprieve to pay their alcohol duty bills. The letter was compiled by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) on behalf of the signatories as a response to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak.

The move, says the WSTA, would save UK wine and spirit businesses an estimated £5.8bn, and would therefore be crucial to help businesses survive the covid-19 crisis.

‘The letter to the chancellor signed by 35 [and counting] UK wine and spirit businesses shows the breadth of the despair being felt throughout the industry,’ said WSTA chief exec Miles Beale. ‘On Wednesday many of these companies will have to shell out millions of pounds to the government at a time when they have no income and many of them are unable to pay their staff wages… It is within the government’s power to give our great British pubs, bars, restaurants, their suppliers and alcohol retailers an immediate injection of cash that will save many from going under. If this doesn’t happen the Treasury’s next collection of duty takings will be considerably lower as many businesses won’t have the funds to adapt and survive.

The WSTA highlighted that although retailers are experiencing a boost in sales, this is the ‘result of stockpiling and is unlikely to be sustained’. According to the WSTA, a duty suspension would allow retailers to offer support to their suppliers (eg by extending payment schedules), or to cover coronavirus-generated costs such as extra, staff, delivery and warehousing.

The full letter can be accessed here.

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