The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has said that this month’s beer duty payments, due to go out tomorrow (25th March) will not be cancelled.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) say this could put many of the UK’s small independent breweries at risk.

Brewers had been calling on the Chancellor to cancel the payment in the face of huge sales drops following social distancing measures, including pub, bar, and restaurant closures, and as of last night the closing of take-away sales for beer businesses.

SIBA chief executive, James Calder, said: “SIBA has been calling for the cancellation of beer duty for over a week and it is incredibly disappointing that the Chancellor has decided not to act, given he knows how poor the answer rate and experience on the helpline is.

“The Chancellor has left brewers with few options if they are unsuccessful in reaching the helpline. There will be brewers tomorrow who will have thousands of pounds direct debited from their accounts by HMRC. This is a huge blow for the UK’s small independent brewers.”

In lieu of beer duty being cancelled, brewers are being encouraged to phone the HMRC time to pay helpline, which HMRC says is now fully staffed, with options to speak specifically about excise duty. However, a poll of small brewers by SIBA showed that only 21% had been able to successfully reach the helpline.

‘This is a huge blow to Britain’s world class brewing industry that has been devastated in the last week’

SIBA says the average small brewer will be landed with a beer duty bill of around £5,000, but for larger independent breweries in the UK it could be as much as £500,000.

Emma Mc Clarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We urged the Chancellor to cancel the imminent beer duty bill, to allow businesses to use funds to invest in their survival.

“The decision not to act on duty is extremely disappointing. Make no mistake, this is a huge blow to Britain’s world class brewing industry that has been devastated in the last week.

“Cancelling the duty payment due on March 25th would have freed up cash for many hard-squeezed pub and brewing businesses, helping them get through this difficult period whilst saving jobs.”

CAMRA chairman, Nick Antona, added: “CAMRA is disappointed to hear that the Chancellor has decided not to cancel beer duty in light of the current COVID situation.

“This could have meant the difference between many hundreds of independent breweries standing a chance of surviving this crisis, or closing their operations permanently and never re-opening.”

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