UK ‘pays 26% of all tax on spirits in Europe’

Julie Hesketh-Laird

British consumers pay more than one quarter of all the tax on spirits collected in Europe, mainly because of a UK domestic tax level far higher than the European average, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said.

On a 70cl bottle of Scotch, people in the UK pay £7.74 in excise duty alone, compared to an EU average of £4.40.

Further, VAT — currently 20% — is added to the retail price of whisky in the UK.

The SWA has called for a 2% reduction in excise duty for whisky in the UK Budget on March 8.

The SWA said the UK pays 26% of spirits duty collected in the European Union despite having only 11% of its population.

It said that in total, the price of an average bottle of Scotch Whisky in the UK is made up of 77% in tax.

Only three countries in the EU tax spirits at a higher rate than the UK:  Sweden, Finland and Ireland.

The SWA argued that, as an important industry that contributes £5 billion to the UK’s economy each year and supports 40,000 jobs, more government support is needed to help the Scotch Whisky industry invest and grow as it prepares for the UK’s exit from the EU.

It said the UK government’s own figures revealed that a duty cut in 2015 actually led to increased revenue for the UK Treasury — an additional £123 million in the 12 months following the cut.

SWA acting chief-executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: “British people pay more tax on their Scotch than is fair.

“This is shown very clearly when compared to other European countries.

“The chancellor is in a strong position.

“He can reduce tax on Scotch Whisky, help consumers as the threat of inflation grows and take the opportunity to boost one of the UK’s flagship industries.

“At the same time, as past experience has shown, this should lead to increased government revenue.

“This is a common sense decision that could benefit everyone.

“I hope he listens to a key British industry, assesses the figures and stands up for Scotch.”