The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) along with more than 100 wine and spirit producers, retailers and hospitality businesses, has made a last-ditch plea for the chancellor to cut alcohol duty and avoid unnecessary red tape.

In a letter, signed by the WSTA and 120 businesses, the sector has called on Jeremy Hunt and Gareth Davies MP, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, to announce a duty cut to “help prevent further price rises for consumers, drive down inflation and increase income to the Treasury” and make “permanent the wine easement” to “save thousands of wine businesses pointless and costly bureaucracy”.

The WSTA gathered signatures at this week’s SITT tastings, with help from Drinks Retailing, as part of the joint Crush the Red Tape campaign.   

Last week HMRC published the latest excise duty receipts, which for wine and spirits combined showed the Treasury lost £436million.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “Wine and spirit businesses across the country are urging the government to do the right thing at the Budget next week: support British business and boost Treasury coffers by cutting alcohol duty. Record high duty hikes last August have now been shown to achieve the exact opposite – and have instead fuelled inflation and significantly reduced excise duty receipts to the exchequer.  

“The wine sector is also united in asking the chancellor to use his Budget statement to announce that the government is calling time on its plans to swamp businesses in unnecessary red tape. The costly and fiendishly complex new taxation plans that are due to come into force from 1 February 2025 have been described as “un-administrable” and “sheer lunacy” by our members. Instead, the chancellor should keep in place the temporary, simplified procedure for taxing 85% of wines on the UK market.”

If the government announces a duty hike at the Budget, “wine duty would go up to a painful £2.80 a bottle and spirit duty £8.71 a bottle, in August, based on current RPI,” the WSTA said.

 John Colley, CEO of Majestic, who is a co-signatory of the letter to the chancellor, said: “The government intended to create an alcohol duty system that was simpler, fairer and less bureaucratic for businesses to administer, but their plans fail on every measure. The proposed change from one duty band to 30 different bands based on abv will be bad for retailers, hospitality businesses, consumers and the wine industry. Common sense needs to prevail and this needs to be stopped.

“Implementing this overly complicated policy not only increases costs, but will result in international wine producers avoiding the UK due to more red tape. It is anti-business, anti-growth and anti-jobs.”