Germany opposes higher beer tax

Government won't go along with EU 'harmonizing' efforts

Aug 15, 2002 - The German government is prepared to fight any efforts by the European Union to boost the cost of beer. European Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein wants to equalize taxes on beer and wine across the 15-member bloc. By "harmonizing" prices, the EU hopes to reduce smuggling and fraud.


In Germany, the proposal would involve raising the beer tax by an estimated 30 euro cents ($0.29) on each case. It would also mean introducing a duty on wine, which is currently not imposed in Germany.

"There will be no increase in beer tax with us," said a spokesman for Finance Minister Hans Eichel.

In order to change beer and wine tax laws, the EU would have to revamp its alcohol tax rate regulations. Such a resolution requires the unanimous agreement of all 15 member states. And Brussels cannot count on Germany in this case. "We will reject the proposal," Eichel's spokesman said.

The German Brewers' Association (DBB) praised the position. "Anyone who demands an increase in beer tax of almost 25 percent in light of the German brewing industry's current situation (slumping sales) is completely misjudging reality," DBB director Peter Hahn said in a statement.

The EU stipulates minimum tax rates for certain alcoholic beverages, as well as tobacco and oil products. In Germany, the beer tax is at the lower end of the scale, only Spain taxes beer less. Danish beer drinkers pay the highest taxes on their beverage of choice within the EU.

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