Are British beer drinkers the most heavily taxed in Europe?
While actual volume of beer quaffed has not been measured here, recent research has found that the UK pays more in beer duty than 16 major European countries put together (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland in case you are interested). In fact, with the exception of our Oktoberfesting friends, small regions of the UK beat most European countries into a top hat on the beer duty stakes. Even the world’s biggest (per capita) beer drinking nation the Czech Republic is drunk under the (beer tax) table by the North East alone. And not just because Andy lives there.
Of course, the high levels of beer duty in the UK are not the only reason we are topping the charts- continental types drink a lot of wine as well, for example, but the scale of the tax compared to our near neighbours is certainly eye-opening.
And the ever-increasing, inflation-beating levels of beer duty, which has increased by over 40% since 2008, is having an effect in the pumps and in the pubs. Heineken recently announced that John Smith's Extra Smooth bitter will be reduced from 3.8 per cent alcohol to 3.6 per cent, while simultaneously increasing the price of the beer by 2.5p a pint. The manufacturers claim their research suggests the alcohol reduction does not compromise on the taste, but coincidentally, the change will save them over £6.6 billion a year in beer duty.
Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the BBPA Chief Executive said:
“The scale of UK beer tax compared with our near neighbours shows that the Government’s tax policy does not make sense. With more sustainable levels of taxation, we could be creating jobs, and UK brewing would be a bigger manufacturing success story. We need a review now of this policy, as Parliament has rightly requested.”