Spirits trade urges alcohol duty suspension

24th March, 2020 by Owen Bellwood

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) and 32 businesses have written an open letter to the UK chancellor calling for duty suspension to support the industry as it struggles through the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses including the Co-op have called for an alcohol duty freeze

Last week, the WSTA issued calls for the treasury to suspend alcohol duty for at least six months while the drinks industry is affected by lockdowns and suspensions brought about by the spread of covid-19.

Since then, all pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK have been ordered to close their doors, and last night (23 March) prime minister Boris Johnson urged all non-essential shops to shut as well.

Following the tighter restrictions on businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, 32 companies from across the drinks industry have written to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for a duty suspension.

Simon Cairns, member of the WSTA and head of drinks at grocery chain Co-op, said: “Whilst we are doing everything we can as a retailer to support our suppliers in this unprecedented time, the sudden impact of the closure of pubs, restaurants and hospitality establishments is likely to have catastrophic consequence for the UK’s brewers, distillers and wineries.

“Suspending duty payments will not only ease the immediate pressure on our suppliers’ finances, it will give us time to pull together as an industry and re-structure supply chains, put a specialist workforce in place and enable the industry to rapidly rebound once the threat of covid-19 has passed.”

If the government agrees to an immediate duty suspension, for at least six months, the UK wine and spirit businesses could save an estimated £5.8 billion (US$6.8bn).

Miles Beale, chief executive for the WSTA, said: “The letter to the chancellor signed by 32 UK wine and spirit businesses shows the breadth of the despair being felt throughout the industry.

“On Wednesday [25 March] 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.

“The government has pledged ‘to do whatever it takes’ to help businesses, so now is the time to honour this promise. 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.”

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our newsletter