Ninety-eight per cent of National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) members believe that the government isn’t doing enough to protect Irish SMEs, while 37 per cent would hire more staff if excise duty on alcohol is reduced by 15 per cent.
Those and other statistics have been unveiled as part of NOffLA’s pre-Budget submission to the Department of Finance for Budget 2019, resulting from an annual survey of its members. Should excise be increased as part of the upcoming Budget, 76 per cent of members have indicated they would be forced to let staff go or face a struggle to keep their doors open. In addition, 31 per cent of those surveyed noted that they experienced negative growth in 2017 with a further 52 per cent experiencing zero growth in the calendar year.
Some 3,000 jobs have been lost in the sector since 2008, with NOffLA calling on the government to protect the 5,900 jobs that remain. The organisation is seeking a reduction in excise duty translating to 10c on spirits, beer and cider and 50c on a bottle of wine, the application of parity to wine taxation with regard to domestic alcohol, a reintroduction of the ban on selling alcohol below cost, and the establishment of tighter controls on out-of-state imports (VAT and excise collection).
Evelyn Jones, Government Affairs Director of NOffLA, notes that challenges lie ahead for the off-licence sector, with the need for government intervention to protect jobs.
“The independent off-licence sector continues to face significant challenges associated with a punitive alcohol tax regime that is not in line with other European nations, and is damaging not only local communities but also our national competitiveness,” she explained. “Our members are baffled by Government’s approach to supporting Irish SMEs, setting the highest excise rates on alcohol in Europe, yet allowing large multinational supermarkets sell alcohol at below invoice cost, and therefore reclaiming €24 million per annum in VAT rebates. This imperils small or micro-SMEs such as ours, slowly but surely eroding the margins for independent specialists. We are calling on the Government to take positive and decisive action that will safeguard jobs, encourage local investment and ultimately contribute to the development of local communities.”