Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Finance Bill 2014: Report and final stages (continued) [alcohol].

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Finance Bill 2014: Report and final stages (continued) [alcohol]. (11 Dec 2014)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Senator Darragh O'BrienI move recommendation No. 12: In page 87, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following

Excise duty fee on off-licence retailers

Within 6 months of the enactment of this Act, the Minister shall bring forward a report on a revised scale of rates of excise duties imposed on off-licence retailers for the sale of intoxicating liquor, such scale to be graduated based on size of retail space such that the duty imposed on small independent retailers would be less than that imposed on large retailers. This is a big issue and I am sure the Department has received submissions in this regard, given a store like Tesco would be paying the same as an O'Briens Wine shop down the road - no relation of mine - or an independent off-licence. There is an opportunity here, first, to level the playing pitch for independent smaller operators in regard to fees for licences and, second, frankly, to raise more money by charging more, and it could either be charged on the square footage or on gross purchases. The big problem is that the State is losing a lot of money because some of the large multiples are selling below cost and we are losing out on excise duties. I will not mention names, but we all know this is the case. What we should do is charge on the stock, which would ensure more money for the Exchequer.

The purpose of the recommendation is to level the playing pitch somewhat because the current situation is unfair.

I am not going to labour the point. Perhaps if the Minister has a response on it, we can see where we go from there.

Senator Mary M. White: I second the recommendation

Deputy Simon Harris:  I thank Senator O'Brien and Senator White for the recommendation. Although I am sure people are aware of the current rates and structures of the alcohol licensing regime, the Minister for Finance is eager that we briefly outline the current licensing system and the steps the Government proposes to take to tackle the misuse of alcohol, and that this be put on the record of the Seanad.

The rate of duty on off-licences is currently set at €500 per licence for a beer, wine or spirits off-licence. A typical off-licence premises offering the full range of alcoholic beverages for sale pays €1,500 per annum. Pubs have a graduated licence duty fee structure, based on turnover, ranging from €250 to €3,805, organised into 6 bands. Over 75% of pubs fall within the two lowest bands and pay excise duty of €505 or less.

On foot of the steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy, the Government announced in October 2013 that it would introduce a public health (alcohol) Bill to tackle alcohol misuse. The Government has approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse to be incorporated into the Bill, including provision for minimum unit pricing, which I believe is the most appropriate measure to tackle the problem of the availability of low-priced alcohol.

Although I welcome the Senator's recommendation, as does the Minister for Finance, we believe it is unduly restrictive in terms of the remit of the report it proposes. It would confine the scope of the proposed report to examining the possibility of retailers' off-licence duty being graduated on the basis of retail space only. However, the Minister for Finance does believe there is merit in conducting a broader examination of the alcohol licensing regime, taking account of both the off-trade and the on-trade. To that end, he has asked his officials to bring forward options for his consideration in the context of next year's budget and finance Bill....

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