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WSTA demands action

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has called upon the Government to change the way wines and spirits are taxed in the UK.
In its 2006 Budget Submission, the association - representing more than 200 UK producers, importers, wholesalers and retailers - has devised a list of demands that it claims are essential to maintaining a trading environment where responsible business can survive'.

These are the five WSTA demands, and the reasons for their inclusion:

1. A radical review of the way excise duty rates for wines are set:

The way that duty is implemented puts unnecessary pressure on vulnerable parts of the industry. Currently, the duty represents a tax on margins in the supply chain, and is a significant administrative and cost burden, especially for small businesses.'

2. Pending the outcome of this review, a freeze in the excise duty rates for wine:

Increasingly tight margins will have an impact on the numbers employed in the wine trade and will threaten the viability of the smaller traders.'

3. A freeze in the excise duty rates for spirits:

We are concerned that the new strip stamp scheme regime for spirits has added significantly to costs to businesses, in particular for small companies.'

4. Parity in still and sparkling: wine excise duty rates:

The "tax on the bubble" means that duty on sparkling wine is approximately 39 pence higher than for a bottle of still wine.'

5. Specific reductions in the regulatory burden to promote business development and entrepreneurship:

We urge the Government to introduce a "risk-based" approach to duty deferment guarantees. This would reduce the cost burden for legitimate traders with a good track record.'

The WSTA has also called on the Government to implement proposals to reform licensing in Northern Ireland.

Proposals include extending licensing hours until 2am; abolishing the surrender provision (where a new licence can only be granted once an existing licence has been surrendered, to block new businesses); transferring administration from the courts to district councils; and enforcing additional powers for the police and district councils.

The opening-hours reform is due to come in in 2007, with the rest following in 2009.