Aussie brewers seek tax refund

They would give money to charity or lower beer prices

Jan 19, 2001 - Australia's biggest brewers have taken the government to court to recover excess taxes that drinkers have been paying for six months.


They want to be repaid tens of millions of dollars in beer excise should the Senate scrap existing increases in the tax. The money could be poured back into drinkers' glasses through cheaper beer, or donated to charities.

Drinkers have been paying a doubled excise rate, plus a sales tax, since July 1. The price of draft beer increased as much as 11%, while the tax on packaged beer was up only 1.9%. The tax increase was introduced as a "tariff proposal," a provision instrument by which the government imposes a tax increase on the condition that it will legislate within 12 months to make it legal.

However, the Australian Democrats and Labor have said they will scrap the excise increase in the Senate. Both parties say the government promised in the 1998 election campaign that tax reform would increase the price of beer by just 1.9%.

The Federal Court has been told the money should be returned if the tax is not endorsed by Parliament. The claim has been made in individual statements by Carlton & United Breweries, Lion Nathan, Coopers and J Boag and Sons.

The brewers say they would not add the recouped tax to their profit lines but redistribute it through cheaper prices or through "charities that assist ordinary Australians".

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