Ireland: Alcohol duty hikes spark industry outrage

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Drinks trade bodies in Ireland have branded the Government’s decision to hike alcohol taxes as “disproportionate”, and urged a re-think.

In its Budget yesterday (5 December), the Irish Government announced it was increasing duty on beer, cider and spirits by 10%, with an extra EUR1 (US$1.30) on a 75cl bottle of wine, from today. The move sees excise duties being rolled back to 2009 levels when they were cut to deter cross-border shopping.

Alcohol duty hikes were among a number of tax increases and spending cuts announced by the Irish Government to deal with the country’s national debt.

The Irish Wine Association said it will increase wine excise duty by 41% and “severely damage the livelihoods of wine importers, retailers and the whole of the hospitality sector in Ireland”.

Chairman Philip Robinson said: “The imposition of such a draconian excise increase, will be devastating to the domestic wine market. The latest Revenue Commissioners data shows that in the year to the end of September, the wine market was down 3.9%, with these declines set to continue for the foreseeable future given current economic forecasts.”

He also said the hike would lead to a “major surge” in shopping across the border in Northern Ireland.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland also voiced its disappointment at the decisison. Chairman Kieran Tobin said the increases “further the burden on pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, and independent off-licences and put more jobs, businesses and livelihoods at risk”.

He added: “Irish drinks exports continue to perform extremely well on international markets and that success is built on a solid domestic base. While the drinks industry will continue to work with Government on strengthening our export performance, it is very regrettable that they have jeopardised the market at home through today’s decision.”

The IWA’s Robinson said the group is “calling on Government to reverse this decision at the earliest opportunity”.

Earlier this year, Ireland’s chief medical officer recommended a ban on alcohol brands sponsoring sport and a minimum alcohol price. The proposed ban was subsequently branded “ridiculous” by Diageo CEO Paul Walsh.