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WSTA ‘assumes' duty payments due today (25 March)

Published:  25 March, 2020

The WSTA, which has relentlessly called on the Chancellor to suspend duty payments, last night said it assumed the payments would be due today (25 March) with no formal response from the Treasury to suggest otherwise.

Alongside a 14-strong group of MPs and a 36-strong group of drinks companies, the WSTA has been urging the government to suspend duty payments for six months to allow struggling businesses to keep vital cash flow and pay staff in light of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. 

“Tomorrow these payments are due and - at this very late stage - we have still had no formal response to our request for a six-month duty suspension. We therefore have to assume that the Treasury will not waive duty payments,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, yesterday evening.  

The lack of such move was “a bitter blow” and would mean that tomorrow (Wednesday) many businesses would be faced with the “extremely hard decision of whether to pay tax bills or pay staff”.  

“We had hoped that government would honour its vow to do everything in its power to help, but sadly it seems that in this case government action does not support its rhetoric,” he said.

Allowing companies to hold on to vital funds would have addressed critical cashflow challenges, including enabling them to pay staff and keep companies from collapse, he added. 

If government had agree to an immediate duty suspension, for at least six months, its actions would have saved UK wine and spirit businesses an estimated £5.8bn, according to the WSTA.

While a duty suspension would be particularly welcomed by the on-trade and their suppliers who now have lost all their trade, the WSTA had made it clear that whilst it may appear that off-trade retailers are enjoying a boom in wine and spirit sales, this is likely to be a result of stockpiling and is unlikely to be sustained.