The European Commission has launched a public consultation to assess whether some of the rules on excise duty on beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages should be changed to fight tax fraud and reduce the sale of counterfeit alcohol. The Commission also wants to look into whether small and home producers of alcohol could benefit from simpler rules and lower excise duties.
The consultation is part of the Commission's 'Better Regulation' agenda which aims to simplify EU laws to reduce regulatory costs and protect consumers.
Today's consultation invites consumer groups, alcohol producers, retailers and other interested parties to give their views on a broad range of issues, such as the possible benefits of establishing exemptions and common reduced rates, particularly for small producers of alcoholic beverages and home-brewers. It also aims to find out whether EU consumers are properly informed about what they are drinking: for instance, whether discount alcohol is more likely to be counterfeit, and as importantly whether it contains harmful chemicals.
Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs said: "Current rules on the classification and excise structure of alcoholic beverages can be open to interpretation, so that some producers can exploit tax loopholes by producing and selling counterfeit alcohol. By taking part in this public consultation, interested parties and consumers can have a real impact on reducing fraud in this area. We also want to look at ways to lighten the burden for our smaller producers."
The consultation, which will run for three months, will determine possible future changes to the current Alcohol Excise Structures Directive (Directive 92/83/EEC), which is over two decades old. It also seeks to establish a level playing-field among producers of alcohol by ensuring that EU-wide rules are applied correctly and effectively.
Excise duties are indirect taxes on the sale or use of specific products, such as alcohol. They are usually applied as an amount per quantity of the product e.g. per 1,000 litres and are collected by EU Member States.
Existing EU rules on the harmonisation of the structures of excise duties on alcohol and alcoholic beverages were agreed in 1992 and are set out in Directive 92/83/EEC. This Directive sets out common definitions of alcoholic products that are subject to the duty - such as beer, wine and other fermented beverages, such as cider - ensuring that all Member States treat the same products in the same way. The Directive also specifies the method for calculating the duty on alcoholic products, and the criteria under which certain alcohol products may qualify for reduced rates or exemptions, such as for denatured alcohol which is not for human consumption but used to make products such as perfume, anti-freeze and bio-fuels.
The public consultation runs for 12 weeks and ends on 27 November 2015.
Link to public consultation: