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SWA calls for equal alcohol duty rates

Ahead of the UK government’s autumn statement in November, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is campaigning for fairer taxation on spirits.

Graeme Littlejohn and the SWA are asking the government to freeze spirits duty

In the spring budget, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a duty rise of 10.1% for spirits, one of the largest tax hikes in recent decades.

The increase, effective from 1 August 2023, meant that the tax on an average-priced bottle of Scotch whisky rose from 70% to 75%.

The SWA is now calling on the government to support the industry, calling it a ‘home-grown success story’.

The campaign details how the tax system discriminates between alcohol categories, with consumers who drink 14 units of cider a week being taxed £1.23 (US$1.50), while those who drink Scotch whisky will be taxed £4.42 (US$5.37) – 260% higher.

It also highlights the inequality of the ‘Brexit Pubs Guarantee’, which excludes spirits producers from the Draught Relief made available to on-trade beer and cider businesses.

The SWA is asking for the government to support the spirits category by bringing the cost of units of alcohol closer together and implementing a duty freeze, as well as requesting further investment in the sector.

It calls on consumers to support the campaign by writing to their local MP or tweeting using the hashtag #SupportScotch.

Graeme Littlejohn, director of strategy at the SWA, said: “The SWA is calling on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to freeze duty on Scotch whisky and rule out any further widening of the tax gap between spirits, like Scotch, and other alcoholic products.

“HM Treasury points out that Scotch whisky has had freezes and cuts at nine of the past 10 budgets. This is true – but what the Treasury doesn’t say is that positive, supportive action on tax has increased spirits revenue by 50%. Over the same period, high-volume beer has only increased revenue by 9%, despite more supportive tax treatment.

“The 10.1% duty rise in August was the largest in 40 years and made the largest contribution to inflation on record. This is despite the UK government’s pledge to do everything it can to halve inflation by the end of the year.

“Tax on Scotch whisky is already the highest in the G7 developed economies. Scotch whisky is already the highest-taxed alcoholic product in the UK. The chancellor should use the autumn statement on 22 November to freeze duty, boost revenue, tackle inflation and support Scotch.”

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