The taxes on alcoholic drinks in the UK are being radically simplified in the biggest overhaul in more than 140 years, Britain's Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said in Wednesday in his annual budget.
The changes to the tax regime will now take into account a drink's strength as opposed to what type of drink it is. The changes were a central part of Sunak's one-hour address to lawmakers in which he boosted spending on an array of pet projects in the wake of a stronger-than-anticipated economic recovery after the worst of the pandemic.
Sunak criticised the current tax system, which raises more than 12 billion pounds ($17 billion) a year, as outdated, adding that the changes would not have been possible if Britain had remained within the European Union. Beer duties were first introduced in 1643 by his predecessors in Parliament, when they levied a tax on alcohol for the first time to finance the Roundhead armies in the English Civil War against Charles I's Cavaliers.
“Our new system will be designed around a common-sense principle: the stronger the drink, the higher the rate," the teetotaler Sunak said.
The changes, which take effect starting in February 2023, represent potentially good news for real ale, rose and sparking wine drinkers; bad news for those preferring something a tad stronger such as certain red wines, port or sherry.
The alcohol tax changes certainly took up more words from Sunak than environmental issues even though the UK is set to host the UN climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow within days.