Government considers duty stamp reform amid industry innovation

A spokesperson for HMRC has told Drinks Retailing that rules around duty stamps are being reviewed, as the government looks for ways to support industry innovation.

The spokesperson was responding to a call from the British Distillers Alliance (BDA) that asks for the “revocation of the legal requirement for retail containers of duty-paid spirits to bear duty stamps”. The BDA said the measure is causing problems for producers, distributors and retailers looking to re-fill empty stamped spirits bottles.

“HMRC recognises that the alcohol industry is evolving and we are working with HM Treasury, under the government’s Alcohol Review, to consider reforms that support innovation and find better ways to approach this important area of taxation,” the HMRC spokesperson said. “In addition, HMRC is undertaking its own programme of excise modernisation and simplification, to understand how existing processes or procedures can be improved to better support all businesses within the sector. The rules on duty stamps were raised during these discussions and officials have confirmed it is something that will be considered as the ongoing programme of reform develops.”

But the spokesperson also warned that this is a “detailed matter and any changes need full consideration to ensure the best outcomes for all businesses and UK taxpayers”.

Speaking to the BDA, producers said removal of duty stamps would make sustainability projects easier.

Zane Chiswell-Rivas from Essex Spirits Co is quoted as saying: “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do, and we want to do bottle refill schemes with local retailers, but this issue is hamstringing us.”

NcNe’an Distillery owner Annabel Thomas added that duty stamps “create complexity and cost for all businesses and unnecessary single use plastic in the world”.

The Alcohol Duty Review was launched in 2020.