The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has called the Chancellor’s decision not to cancel March’s Beer Duty payments as ‘incredibly disappointing’ and a ‘huge blow” for the UK’s small independent brewers.

Brewers have been calling on the Chancellor to unilaterally cancel the payment, which is due to be debited from bank accounts today (March 25), in the face of decimated sales following social distancing measures including pub, bar and restaurant closures.

James Calder, SIBA chief executive, said: “SIBA has been calling for the cancellation of Beer Duty for over a week and 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. There will be brewers now who will have thousands of pounds direct debited from their accounts by HMRC. This is a huge blow for the UK’s small independent brewers.”

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% have been able to successfully reach the helpline.

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.