Thought leadership

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is calling for a fundamental review of the tax system to stem the tide of pub closures. It says pubs are being hit hard by a “triple whammy” of one of the highest rates of beer duty across Europe, rapidly rising business rates and VAT.

The lobby group says 18 pubs a week are now closing. The government says it has provided help for the alcohol industry in recent years through a number of tax changes.

Camra, which has been drumming up support for traditional beer and pubs since 1971, says a third of the cost of a pub pint is due to various taxes.

The British Beer and Pub Association, which also campaigns against beer duty, says that between 2008 and 2013, tax on beer rose by over 40%, with over a third of the price of a pint – an average of 102p – going straight to the taxman.

It says during this period, more than 7,000 pubs closed and 58,000 jobs were lost. Since 2013, duty has either been cut, or frozen.

New deal

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The alcohol industry makes an important cultural and economic contribution to the UK, and that is why the government is supporting pubs and their customers.

“90% of pubs across the country can benefit from the business rates relief introduced at Budget 2017, which could save them up to £1,000 a year.”

It estimates that both businesses and their customers have saved around £3bn thanks to the change to duty in 2013.

Camra said it welcomed these government moves, but that more action was needed to ensure the survival of the remaining 50,000 remaining pubs.

The campaign group said that the UK’s exit from the European Union could provide new opportunities to support pubs, such as the potential for lower rates of tax for draught beer.

Colin Valentine, Camra’s national chairman said: “We can now look further afield for a new tax deal for the sector. This could include implementing the Australian model of having a lower rate of duty for beer sold in pubs, radically changing the business rates system, or charging a lower rate of VAT for pubs or, even better, all three.”

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