Duty stamps on beer could be introduced under new plans to tackle alcohol fraud being weighed up by Customs officers, The Grocer has learned.
HMRC has asked major brewers for their opinions about a range of measures to tackle the £550m-a-year problem in advance of a formal consultation, which will begin in the autumn.
Under the plans, it could become compulsory for beer produced in the UK for domestic sale to carry a fiscal mark from the point of production.
Imported beer would also require a duty stamp, while exporting duty-stamped beer would be banned.
Although brewers could sell unmarked beer straight to continental Europe without the payment of duty, HMRC could prevent the sale of duty-suspended beer to UK warehouses and seize unmarked bottles and cans.
A BBPA spokesman said tax stamps on every can and bottle would be an “excessive, expensive and totally disproportionate way to tackle duty fraud”.
“It is also totally at odds with the government’s objectives of reducing the regulatory burdens on business,” he added.
But one wholesaler said he would welcome the move. “Duty stamps have not completely eradicated fraud on spirits or cigarettes, but they’ve certainly helped,” he said.
“Brewers are constantly modifying packs to reflect promotions and seasonal events, so I think the cost of incorporating a duty stamp would be negligible.”
The measures are designed to cut down on the oversupply of beer to continental Europe, which is thought to fuel fraud. Half a billion litres of beer are shipped to the EU every year, while the legitimate market demand from those countries is estimated to be closer to 20 million litres.