The Chancellor has resisted calls by CAMRA and Britain’s brewers to cancel March’s collection of beer duty
Campaigners were calling on the Chancellor to unilaterally cancel the payment, due to be debited from bank accounts on 25 March.
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has called the Chancellor’s decision to collect the tax as “incredibly disappointing” and a “huge blow for the UK’s small independent brewers.
CAMRA national chairman Nik Antona said: “CAMRA is disappointed to hear that the Chancellor has decided not to cancel beer duty in light of the current COVID situation.
“This could have meant the difference between many hundreds of independent breweries standing a chance of surviving this crisis, or closing their operations permanently and never reopening.
“Many brewers were already faced with the difficult challenge of trying to continue to run their businesses and retain staff, in order to allow customers across the country enjoy great beer – one of the small pleasures still available to people.
“The postponement or cancellation of beer duty could have helped keep some of these small independent businesses open and trading online, rather than see thousands of pounds sent to HMRC.”
In lieu of beer duty being cancelled brewers are being encouraged to phone the HMRC time to pay helpline, which HMRC say is now fully staffed, with options to speak specifically about excise duty, however a poll of small brewers by SIBA showed that only 21 per cent have been able to successfully reach the helpline.
SIBA chief executive James Calder said “It is incredibly disappointing that the Chancellor has decided not to act, given he knows how poor the answer rate and experience on the helpline is.
“The Chancellor has left brewers with few options if they are unsuccessful in reaching the helpline.”
Calder said there are brewers who had thousands of pounds direct debited from their accounts by HMRC.
“This is a huge blow for the UK’s small independent brewers,” said Calder.
SIBA said the average small brewer will be landed with a beer duty bill of around £5,000, but for larger independent breweries in the UK it could be as much as £500,000.
The British Beer and Pub Association said cancelling the duty payment would have freed up cash for many hard-squeezed pub and brewing businesses, helping them get through this difficult period whilst saving jobs.
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