If HMRC gets their way, your local pub could be forced to check that the source of the drinks they sell is properly registered to sell alcohol to businesses. If they don’t they could face a fine of £5,000 or suffer sanctions against their licence.

Drunk people cost Britain a fortune

Excise duty fraud is huge in the UK, and the brewing industry is co-operating with the Government to tackle it. Apparently, although most of the problems are caused by a comparatively low number of dodgy people, it is also partly down to the enormous and growing difference between booze duty rates in the UK compared to our European neighbours. Which, in turn, is driven by so many Brits’ inability to drink sensibly and the vast sums the NHS and police have to spend dealing with the damage and chaos that drunk people cause.  And they are indeed staggering. Recent figures put the total annual cost of alcohol abuse in the UK at a staggering £17 to £22 billion.

Plans to reduce booze Duty fraud

HMRC’s proposals to reduce Duty fraud include a special beer fiscal mark or ‘tax stamp’ on the packaging of every drinks product, to identify goods intended for the UK market and highlight illegal drink. They are also proposing tighter supply chain legislation, placing statutory responsibility on booze suppliers to safeguard supplies, for example by tracking and tracing products through the supply chain. But their proposals have been met by howls of protest from many in the drinks industry.

Expect changes in 2014

HMRC’s Alcohol Fraud Strategy was covered in the March 2013 Budget and is due to be implemented in 2014. The drink industry claims that the measures would damage their ability to contribute growth to the British economy, damage international trade and restrict consumer choice. They claim many brands would disappear from the market. But in reality, all that drama queen stuff seems highly unlikely. The industry needs to take some of the responsibility for cleaning itself up.