8 October 2020
BDA welcomes HMRC Policy change to remove requirement for excise warehouse premises guarantees
HMRC has just announced an extremely welcome policy change removing the requirement for a premises guarantee to be in place as a condition of excise warehouse approval. Until this month, a premises guarantee has been a requirement for excise warehouse approval, albeit it has been possible for “trade facility” policy excise warehousekeepers to have a “nil” level of security where there is no more than £100k duty stockholding at month end.
By circular of 28 September 2020 to members of the Joint Alcohol and Tobacco Consultative Group (JATCG), HMRC stated:
“Excise premises guarantees will also be changing from 1 January 2021. This will allow most GB and NI businesses to operate an excise premises without a guarantee. This will be subject to risk and compliance checks by HMRC. This policy change will apply to both storage and production premises.
HMRC is currently reviewing all existing premise guarantees to identify those that can be cancelled. HMRC will notify businesses who do not satisfy the risk and compliance checks, as these guarantees will be retained. It is expected we will complete this work by 1st January 2021.”
At the virtual JATCG meeting of 7 October 2020, HMRC confirmed that excise warehouse premises guarantees would be applied “by exception” ie the requirement for a guarantee would be exceptional, not the norm. HMRC’s position is that a guarantee could be required for cases of non-compliance by a warehousekeeper (or applicant for warehouse approval) or other revenue risk.
Whilst the policy change is welcomed, the BDA nevertheless believes that HMRC misses the purpose (or rather, lack of purpose) of a premises guarantee. HMRC has manifold appropriate sanctions to improve compliance of a warehousekeeper incrementally or with immediate severity. The premises guarantee is not really part of such compliance measures and never covers the full extent of revenue in duty-suspension. Instead, a premises guarantee is really an archaic, blunt “long stop” in the unlikely event that a warehousekeeper did not pay assessments to duty on pilferages or unexplained stock deficiencies.
To put this into context, HMRC has never routinely require licensed wine producers or cider-makers or registered brewers to provide a premises guarantee for excise duty suspension. It is discriminatory, therefore, for a premises guarantees to be imposed upon excise warehousekeepers who may “hold” such alcohol products (as well as spirits). Alan Powell and the BDA have lobbied hard for years for removal of warehouse premises guarantees imposed as a matter of routine by HMRC since they are not necessary or effective for compliance purposes and are discriminatory vis a vis “production” tax warehouses.
2 October 2020
UK Alcohol Duty Review starts - call for evidence
HM Treasury has advised the BDA that the Call for Evidence by the UK government into alcohol, duty rates and structures has commenced. The link to the web site is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-duty-review-call-for-evidence
The government committed at Budget 2020 to undertake a review of the alcohol duty system. This area of policy was previously harmonised by EU law. The UK is now able to set its own law in this area.
The aim of the Alcohol Duty Review is said to improve the current system to make it simpler, more economically rational and less administratively burdensome on businesses and HMRC. This call for evidence seeks views from respondents on how well the current system works (both for the individual duties and as a system as a whole), and also looks at whether:
the method of alcohol taxation should be standardised
the duty categories should be changed or unified
products should be consistently distinguished by their strength
distinctions should be made based on the place of retail
small producer reliefs should be extended or standardised
duties could be uprated for inflation in a more consistent manner
a single process for approvals, declarations and payments should be introduced
more could be done to tackle avoidance and evasion of duty
The BDA has been ready to contribute to this call for evidence since the Budget announcement and will participate with submissions to HMT about both duty rates and the entire taxation structure.
28 August 2020
The BDA has been contacted by the French Department of International Trade warning of “an increasing number of UK companies being targeted by sophisticated delivery frauds.”
The scammers “impersonate real companies … by providing extracts from French business registries Infogreffe or Sirene”, sometimes using the names of company directors or former employees of the companies.
Often contact numbers given start with 09 (French numbers begin 01 to 05) and small changes are made to email addresses or websites.
The DIT have listed the following companies who have been impersonated by the scammers:
Sodijour Distribution du Point du Jour,
If members receive suspicious contact, they are advised to immediately inform Action Fraud.
20 May 2020
Use of duty stamps for bottle and container refills of duty-paid spirits
There is industry scepticism about the need for, or effectiveness of, UK spirits duty stamps. Alan Powell is aware that many in HMCE/HMRC have felt the same way, including the very branch charged with delivering the scheme. In the light of this and of submissions from industry, the scheme must be reviewed to determine whether it is fit for purpose, or is required at all.
Because there is confusion and lack of clarity, Alan has written to HMRC Policy requesting precise explanation of the legal requirements for the re-filling of retail containers, a practice that is growing due to environmental imperative, and which is allowed in law subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Unsurprisingly the law is unclear, hence the aforementioned request to HMRC.
When used containers can be re-filled and stamped
Regulation 38 of the Duty Stamps Regulations 2006 (DSR) states:
38.—(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), stamped retail containers must not be refilled with alcoholic liquor.
(2) A person who bottles alcoholic liquor on which excise duty has been paid may refill a stamped retail container supplied by the person to whose order the alcoholic liquor is being supplied provided that—
(a) excise duty has been paid on the alcoholic liquor with which the container is refilled,
(b) he affixes a new type A stamp to the container and complies with regulation 23 when he does so.
(3) A private individual may refill a stamped retail container with alcoholic liquor—
(a) from another stamped retail container, or
(b )from a retail container that is not required to be stamped.
Sub paragraph (2) is most relevant to revenue traders (not being private individuals). This states that a “person who bottles” duty paid alcoholic liquor may refill a (previously) stamped container provided the duty has been paid on the alcohol and a type A stamp is affixed in accordance with regulation 23 (normal rules for affixing such stamps).
As a preliminary observation, the regulation refers to a person who “bottles” duty-paid alcohol, then refers to “containers”. There appears to be no definition of a bottle or bottler within the relevant law, just “containers”, which can be any container (including pouches, it must be presumed). This appears to be slipshod and inattentive drafting of the law.
The law does clearly state that the container which had previously been used and stamped, can be re-used (i.e. re-filled with duty-paid spirits) provided that this in compliance with regulation 23.
There appears to be no requirement in law to remove or obliterate the “previous” duty stamp.
It would be logical, therefore, to “overstamp” the previous stamp, which might conflict with the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 (ALDA) section 9, which includes penalties for, inter alia, “over-labelling”. The most relevant provision would seem to be ALDA s9(5) ie where any label or item is affixed in such a way as to cover up all or part of a stamp affixed to, or incorporated in a label affixed to a container except where the label or item is so affixed in accordance with the regulations (DSR).
The situation would seem to be that an authorized person may re-fill previously used and stamped bottles/containers provided that new Type A stamp is affixed in compliance with DSR regulation 23, i.e. the duty stamp can be affixed anywhere except the base, the stopper or any label affixed to the container. There is no reference to not over-stamping a previous stamp, so presumably this is permitted (over-stamping, including, pragmatically, over-stamping a “label stamp” ((type B)) and without any non-compliance with s9(5) of ALDA). However, multiple duty stamps affixed to the same bottle would appear peculiar and suspicious.
Therefore, the best course of action would be to eliminate entirely the misconceived and unnecessary duty stamps scheme.